Google, Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG and LSE: GGEA) is an American public corporation and search engine, first incorporated as a privately held company on 7 September 1998. The company had 9,378 full-time employees as of September 30, 2006 and is based in Mountain View, California. Eric Schmidt, former chief executive officer of Novell, was named Google's CEO when co-founder Larry Page stepped down.
The name "Google" originated from a misspelling of "googol," which refers to 10100 (a 1 followed by one-hundred zeros). Google has had a major impact on online culture. The verb "google" was recently added to both the Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary, meaning "to use the Google search engine to obtain information on the Internet."
Google's services are run on several server farms, each consisting of thousands of low-cost commodity computers running stripped-down versions of Linux. While the company does not provide detailed information about its hardware, a 2006 estimate consisted of over 450,000 servers, racked up in clusters located in data centers around the world (See Google platform for more details on their technology). According to the Nielsen cabinet, Google is the most used search engine on the web with a 54% market share, ahead of Yahoo! (23%) and MSN (13%). However, independent estimates from popular sites indicate that more than 80% of search referrals come from Google, with Yahoo! a distant second and MSN occupying barely 5%. The Google search engine receives about a billion search requests per day.
Google began as a research project in January, 1996 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two Ph.D. students at Stanford University, California. They hypothesized that a search engine that analyzed the relationships between websites would produce better results than existing techniques (existing search engines at the time essentially ranked results according to how many times the search term appeared on a page). It was originally nicknamed "BackRub" because the system checked backlinks to estimate a site's importance. A small search engine called RankDex was already exploring a similar strategy.
Convinced that the pages with the most links to them from other highly relevant web pages must be the most relevant pages associated with the search, Page and Brin tested their thesis as part of their studies, and laid the foundation for their search engine. Originally the search engine used the Stanford University website with the domain google.stanford.edu. The domain google.com was registered on September 14, 1997, and the company was incorporated as Google Inc. on September 7, 1998 at a friend's garage in Menlo Park, California. The total initial investment raised for the new company eventually amounted to almost US$1.1 million, including a $100,000 check by Andy Bechtolsheim, one of the founders of Sun Microsystems.
In March, 1999, the company moved into offices at 165 University Avenue in Palo Alto, home to several other noted Silicon Valley technology startups. After quickly outgrowing two other sites, the company settled into their current home in a complex of buildings in Mountain View at 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, also in 1999. The complex has since become known as the Googleplex (a play on the word googolplex, a 1 followed by a googol of zeros). Silicon Graphics leased the buildings to Google.
The Google search engine attracted a loyal following among the growing number of Internet users. They were attracted to its simple, uncluttered, clean design — a competitive advantage to attract users who did not wish to enter searches on web pages filled with visual distractions. This appearance imitated AltaVista's, but incorporated Google's unique search capabilities. In 2000, Google began selling advertisements associated with search keywords. This strategy was important for increasing advertising revenue, which is based upon the number of hits users make upon ads. The ads were text-based in order to maintain an uncluttered page design and to maximize page loading speed. Keywords were sold based on a combination of price bid and clickthroughs, with bidding starting at $.05 per click. This model of selling keyword advertising was pioneered by Goto.com (later renamed Overture, then Yahoo! Search Marketing). While many of its dot-com rivals failed in the new Internet marketplace, Google quietly rose in stature while generating revenue.
U.S. Patent 6,285,999 describing part of Google's ranking mechanism (PageRank) was granted on September 4, 2001. The patent was officially assigned to Stanford University and lists Lawrence Page as the inventor.
With Google's increased size comes more competition from large mainstream technology companies. One such example is the rivalry between Microsoft and Google. Microsoft has been touting its MSN Search engine, and more recently its Windows Live search in February, 2006, to counter Google's competitive position. Furthermore, the two companies are increasingly offering overlapping services, such as webmail (Gmail vs. Hotmail), search (both online and local desktop searching), and other applications (for example, Microsoft's Windows Live Local competes with Google Maps).
Click fraud has also become a growing problem for Google's business strategy. Google's CFO George Reyes said in a December 2004 investor conference that "something has to be done about this really, really quickly, because I think, potentially, it threatens our business model." Some have suggested that Google is not doing enough to combat click fraud. Jessie Stricchiola, president of Alchemist Media, called Google, "the most stubborn and the least willing to cooperate with advertisers, when it comes to click fraud.
While the company's primary market is in the web content arena, Google has also recently begun to experiment with other markets, such as radio and print publications. On January 17, 2006, Google announced that it had purchased the radio advertising company dMarc, which provides an automated system that allows companies to advertise on the radio. This will allow Google to combine two niche advertising media -- the Internet and radio -- with Google's ability to laser-focus on the tastes of consumers. Google has also begun an experiment in selling advertisements from its advertisers in offline newspapers and magazines, with select advertisements in the Chicago Sun-Times. They have been filling unsold space in the newspaper that would have normally been used for in-house advertisements.
Google was added to the S&P 500 index on March 31, 2006. Google replaced Burlington Resources, a major oil producer based in Houston which was acquired by ConocoPhillips.
As it has grown, Google has found itself the focus of various controversies related to its business practices and services. For example, Google Book Search's effort to digitize millions of books and make the full text searchable has led to copyright disputes with the Authors Guild. Google's cooperation with the governments of China, France and Germany to filter search results in accordance to regional laws and regulations has led to claims of censorship. Google's persistent cookie and other information collection practices have led to concerns over user privacy. A number of governments have raised concerns about the security risks posed by geographic details provided by Google Earth's satellite imaging. Moreover, Google advertisers have filed several lawsuits against the company in 2006, claiming that up to 14-20% of the clicks on the bills were in fact fraudulent or invalid.
Google's core business model revolves around its Internet search engines. Google has several products that are search-oriented, including Web Search, Image Search and Google News. Google has also introduced Froogle, Google Groups and Google Scholar, which search shopping sites, Usenet archives and scholarly literature, respectively. Also, with the rise in popularity of blogging in 2005, Google created Blog Search, which allows the user to search frequently-indexed feeds, containing news and other features.
Google Maps provides an interactive mapping interface, where users can search for local businesses, or select a destination to drive to. Satellite images are also available. It is growing in power and popularity, and Google has made several other products, based on the same technology. These include Google Moon, Google Mars, Google Ride Finder and Google Transit.
In 2004, Google and Keyhole provided Google Earth, a downloadable program that allows the user to zoom into nearly any spot on the earth, close enough to make out cars, and in some cases, people. The technology comes with hundreds of add-ons, like "Crime rate", to see the crime rate of the city you are zoomed in on, or "3D buildings", to create 3D models of the towers and buildings of larger cities. There are three available versions, "free edition", "plus", and "pro". The cost of plus as of October 2006 is $20.00US and Pro for $400.
In 2004, Google launched its own free web-based email service, known as Gmail. Gmail features improved spam filtering technology, combined with the capability to use Google search technology on individual email messages. Gmail shook up the free, web-based email market by initially offering 1 GB of email storage, prompting competitors Yahoo! and Hotmail to increase their storage quotas considerably. Google has since expanded Gmail's mail quota (and continues to expand it); as of October, 2006, the quota was over 2.77 GB. The service generates revenue by displaying advertisements from the AdWords service that are tailored to the content of the email messages displayed on screen. This feature has proven controversial, with some privacy advocates expressing concern that the company was reading individual emails. Google maintains, however, that the process is fully automated and that no humans read the content of users' messages.
Google also branched out into the instant messaging market in August 2005, by introducing Google Talk, a Jabber-based instant messaging service.
In early 2006, the company launched Google Video, which not only allows users to search and view freely available videos, but also offers users and media publishers to publish their content, including television shows on CBS, NBA basketball games, and music videos. Videos offered via this service are protected using Google's own Digital rights management system.
Google has also targeted organizations and educational institutions, by bundling several Google products, namely Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar and Google Page Creator, into a service that can be implemented on a custom top-level domain. 
Over the years since Google first began, they have launched over 70 products, several of which are experimental. Smaller Google projects are contained on the Google Labs website.
Originally, typical salaries at Google were considered to be quite low by industry standards. For example, some system administrators earned no more than $33,000 — while $40,000 at that time was considered to be low for the Bay Area job market. Nevertheless, Google's excellent stock performance following the IPO has enabled these early employees to be competitively compensated by participation in the corporation's remarkable equity growth. In 2005, Google has implemented other employee incentives such as the Google Founders' Award, in addition to offering higher salaries to new employees. Google's workplace amenities, culture, global popularity, and strong brand recognition have also attracted potential applicants.
After the company's IPO in August 2004, it was reported that Founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, as well as CEO Eric Schmidt, have accepted a base salary of $1.00. They have all declined recent offers of bonuses and increases in compensation by Google's board of directors. In a 2006 report of the world's richest people, Forbes reported that Sergey Brin was #26 with a net worth of $12.9 billion, and Larry Page was #27 with a net worth of $12.8 billion.
Google is particularly known for its relaxed corporate culture, reminiscent of the Dot-com boom. Google's corporate philosophy is based on many casual principles including, "You can make money without doing evil", "You can be serious without a suit" and, "Work should be challenging and the challenge should be fun." A complete list of corporate fundamentals is available on Google's website. Google's relaxed corporate culture can also be seen externally through their holiday variations of the Google logo.
Google's hiring policy is aggressively non-discriminatory and favors ability over experience. The result is a staff that reflects the global audience the search engine serves. However, the hiring process can be quite daunting and arduous for prospective candidates.
All Google engineers are encouraged to spend 20 percent (20%) of their work time on projects that interest them. Some of Google's newer services, such as Gmail, Google News and orkut, originated from these independent endeavors. In a talk at Stanford University, Marissa Mayer, Google's Vice President of Search Products and User Experience, stated that her analysis showed that half of new product launches originated from 20% time.
As a further play on Google's name, its headquarters, located in California, are referred to as "the Googleplex" — a googolplex being 1 followed by a googol of zeros, and the HQ being a complex of buildings (cf. multiplex, cineplex, etc). The lobby is decorated with a piano, lava lamps, old server clusters, and a projection of search queries on the wall. The hallways are full of exercise balls and bicycles. Each employee has access to the corporate recreation center. Recreational amenities are scattered throughout the campus, and include a workout room with weights and rowing machines, locker rooms, washers and dryers, a massage room, assorted video games, Foosball, a baby grand piano, a pool table, and ping pong. In addition to the rec room, there are snack rooms stocked with various cereals, gummy bears, toffee, licorice, cashews, yogurt, carrots, fresh fruit, and dozens of different drinks including fresh juice, soda, and make your own cappuccino. In October, 2006, the company announced plans to install thousands of solar panels to provide up to 1.6 megawatts of electricity, enough to satisfy approximately 30% of the campus' energy needs. The system will be the largest solar power system constructed on a U.S. corporate campus and one of the largest on any corporate site in the world.
In 2006, Google moved into 311,000 square feet of office space in the second-largest building in New York City, at 111 Eighth Ave. in Manhattan. The office was specially designed and built for Google, and houses its largest advertising sales team, which has been instrumental in securing large partnerships, most recently deals with MySpace and AOL. In 2003, they added an engineering staff in New York City, which has been responsible for more than 100 engineering projects, including Google Maps, Google Spreadsheets, and others. It is estimated that the building costs Google $10 million per year to rent, and is similar in design and functionality to its Mountain View headquarters, including Foosball, air hockey, and ping-pong tables, as well as a video game area.
Google has a tradition of creating April Fool's Day jokes - such as Google MentalPlex, which allegedly featured the use of mental power to search the web. In 2002, they claimed that pigeons were the secret behind their growing search engine. In 2004, they featured Google Lunar (which claimed to feature jobs on the moon) and in 2005, a fictitious brain-boosting drink, termed Google Gulp was announced. In 2006 they came up with Google Romance.
One can find other pranks hidden in amongst Google's pages; for instance, in the languages list one can find a Bork! Bork! Bork! version of the site (imitating the Muppet Show's Swedish Chef), and they also offer versions in Pig Latin, "Elmer Fudd", Hacker ("H4X0R"), and Klingon.
Some thought the announcement of Gmail in 2004 around April Fool's Day (as well as the doubling of Gmail's storage space to two gigabytes in 2005) was a joke, though it turned out (in both cases) to be a genuine announcement. In 2005 a comedic graph depicting Google's goal of "infinity plus one" GB of storage was featured on the Gmail homepage.
Many people speculated that Google's IPO would inevitably lead to changes in the company's culture, because of shareholder pressure for employee benefit reductions and short-term advances, or because a large number of the company's employees would suddenly become millionaires on paper. In a report given to potential investors, co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page promised that the IPO would not change the company's culture. Later Mr. Page said, "We think a lot about how to maintain our culture and the fun elements."
As Google grows, many analysts are finding that the company is becoming more "corporate". In 2005, articles in The New York Times and other sources began suggesting that Google had lost its anti-corporate, no evil philosophy.
On September 28, 2005, Google announced a long-term research partnership with NASA which would involve Google building a 1-million square foot R&D center at NASA's Ames Research Center. NASA and Google are planning to work together on a variety of areas, including large-scale data management, massively distributed computing, bio-info-nano convergence, and encouragement of the entrepreneurial space industry. The new building would also include labs, offices, and housing for Google engineers.
Time Warner's AOL unit and Google unveiled an expanded partnership on December 21, 2005, including an enhanced global advertising partnership and a $1 Billion investment by Google for a 5% stake in AOL. As part of the collaboration, Google plans to work with AOL on video search and offer AOL's premium-video service within Google Video. This will allow users of Google Video to search for AOL's premium-video services. Display advertising throughout the Google network will also increase.
Additionally, Google has also recently formed a partnership with Sun Microsystems to help share and distribute each other's technologies. As part of the partnership Google will hire employees to help the open source office program OpenOffice.org.
In August 2006, Google signed a $900 million deal with News Corp.'s Fox Interactive Media unit to provide search and advertising on MySpace and other News Corp. websites including IGN, AmericanIdol.com, Fox.com, and Rotten Tomatoes, although Fox Sports is not included as a deal already exists between News Corp. and MSN.