On 27 September 1998, Google's search journey began. In the 20 years that have followed, the way users interact with information has changed. Google's aim? To organise the world's information in the quickest way possible, making it universally accessible and useful. It was a commitment to innovation that started 20 years ago and that, although it seems to be just beginning, it involves permanent changes and developments that accompany the most significant moments of our lives.
That mission continues to mark every step of the search engine, and improve according to the needs and expectations of internet users. To "Google" has become a syonym for "search something on the web". But why is it called Google? The term Googol, which represents the number 10100 (10 raised to 100), or 1 followed by one hundred zeros, was coined in 1920 by mathematician Edward Kasner. The founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, found a way to reflect the scale of the challenge they faced in that game of words. In September 1997 they registered the domain and in 1998 the company that we know as Google was born.
That ambitious mission - to organise the world's information and make it accessible - is possible thanks to machine learning; that is, a series of algorithms that permanently change and analyse what the user wants and what results to provide them with. While twenty years ago the web consisted of some 25 million pages, currently there are more than 130 trillion. But users do not want trillions of answers, they just need one. Ranking systems that provide quick and easy searches, as well as availability on different devices, are the other face of this gigantic expansion of global information on the internet.
And as the world has evolved, Google Search evolved with it. While the search engine started on desktop, it’s now available on all sorts of devices, from phones, to cars, to smart devices for the home. Search is now available in 190 languages and 150 domains. And as Search evolves, the homepage design and their logos have evolved too.
The first version of the Google search engine homepage:
The evolution of the Search logo:
In 20 years, almost everything has changed about technology, but the core principles of Search have stayed the same: the main goal is to focus on the user and provide the most useful and relevant information is the main goal. Whether the users are looking for recipes, studying for an exam, or finding information on where to vote, Search is focused on serving information needs and meet the evolving expectations of the people who use Google.
So how does the search engine work? Considering the millions of web pages with potentially relevant information, how does Google decide what it needs to show in the results? Track and index are among the basic steps of the search engine. Likewise, the search algorithms are able to interpret and understand the true meaning behind a search and in doing so can return useful and relevant information from the web.
Everyday, people make decisions on what to watch, read or buy, and Google works to enhance the quality of recommendations and personalise them for each user. For example, the synonym system, which took five years to develop, improved the results in more than 30% of searches in different languages.
The innovations over the last 20 years also include images, an option that appeared in 2001, and now can use an image as search content to find related photos all over the web. Google Lens takes a new approach to Search, as it enables you to take a photo of a book, a building or an animal to get details and information about them.
Search predictions, the autocomplete function, voice searches, news aggregation with Google News, as well as the ability to translate content according to language preferences, all add to the suite of tools and resources that are available to users at the touch of a button.
To celebrate 20 years of assistance, we have collated 20 of the most search terms in the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway between 2004 and 2018.
The 20 most searched for expressions and words across Benelux and the Nordics between 2001 and 2018:
Search started with the mission of organising the world’s information and make it universally accessible. Google feels a deep responsibility to this mission and making search better every day.
Happy Birthday, Search!