In 1996, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two computer graduates at Stanford began developing a search engine called Backrub initially and later renamed to Google. The search engine had dozens of rivals in its early days, all of which aimed at bringing order to the World Wide Web, which was an unorganised mess of information. Not only did Page and Brin’s brainchild surpassed its competition to establish itself as a go-to for searching the internet, but fast forward 24 years, Google is now an organisation with a plethora of products — both software and hardware-based. Here we talk about Google, the services they offer — including active and discontinued — and what its future may hold.
According to Google’s record of events, its founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin were never on the same page the first time they met. But once Larry enrolled at Stanford — Brin was already a student — the pair struck a chord and began working on a search engine, which they called Backrub. The engine utilised links to determine the significance of individual pages available on the internet bringing forth results that were highly relevant to the search terms — this algorithm further developed was coined PageRank.
Stanford University owns the patent to algorithm of PageRank, which is exclusively licensed to Google.
After the search engine started picking up steam, the founders decided to change its name and after brainstorming for a while — and a misspelling later — Backrub was renamed as Google. The root for this name was the term ‘googol’, which signifies the number 1 followed by 100 zeroes.
Over the following years, Google was noticed by the academic community and Silicon Valley investors, and a check for $100,000 from Sun Microsystems co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim gave Google the push that led to its incorporation and move to a place that was not Stanford’s dorm. Susan Wojcicki’s garage in Menlo Park, California, served as Google’s first office — she was Google’s 16th employee and is now the CEO of Youtube.
This move was followed by angel investments from Jeff Bezos, Kavitark Ram Shriram and David R. Cheriton. These resulted in an organisation that now provides us with a suite of essential services. To learn more, check Google’s account of its story and other notable events in their history on the web archives.
Who leads Google?
As of December 2019, Sundar Pichai is the CEO of both Google and Alphabet. After 21 years of direct involvement, Larry Page and Sergey Brin decided to transition out of their roles in the organisation. Still, they will remain actively involved as Board members, shareholders and co-founders.
Since its incorporation, Google has undergone two significant organisational changes. The first of which was in 2004, when Google went public. Before this change, Eric Schmidt joined their efforts in 2001 to act as CEO while Larry Page and Sergey Brin took the positions of President of Products and President of Technology respectively.
The transition from a private company to one that was publicly owned was a decision Larry Page and Sergey Brin made after serious consideration, and this is evident in their comments from the 2004 Founder’s Letter. The duo wrote that they decided not to use the standard structure of public ownership but rather a more corporate-inclined one to help the company retain its distinct characteristics. This method allowed them to maintain enough voting rights in the company so that the shareholders’ vested interests could never directly affect what Google intended to do — allowing them to protect its independence and innovative abilities.
The second change came in 2015 when Google decided to make a distinction between its core services and the various acquisitions it had made since its inception. This was done under the blanket of a parent company called Alphabet.
Alphabet allowed a separation to be formed between Google’s internet-related suite of applications and acquired companies like Waymo and Calico, which had completely different goals. So between all of these transitions, Google has had three different CEO’s, how the lead changed hands has been compiled below:
- Larry Page served as the founding CEO until 2001 when Eric Schmidt was handed the post because of the experience that he brought to the company.
- Schmidt remained CEO until 2011, after which Larry Page was reinstated as CEO. During the time that Schmidt was at the helm, Larry Page and Sergey Brin acted as President’s of Products and Technology respectively.
- In 2015, when Google split into subsidiaries under the umbrella of Alphabet, Sundar Pichai took over as CEO of Google while Larry Page headed Alphabet.
- In 2019, Sundar Pichai took over as CEO of Google and Alphabet with Larry Page and Sergey Brin stepped back to more advisory roles.
What products does Google make?
Apart from the search engine that Google is known to be, it is involved in the making of a lot of other products and services. Unless someone has been living under a rock — a massive one in this case — they are bound to have used one of Google’s notable products or at least heard of them. Android, Chrome, Gmail, Maps, and YouTube are seemingly the most popular ones, but these just scratch the surface. With its 21-year history, as a company, Google has offered a vast portfolio of products. While a major chunk of these is still active, a lot of them have been removed from the catalogue are set to be discontinued. Below we’ve discussed a bit about all of them under separate headings for active, discontinued as well as hardware offered by Google.
- Android Auto: Google’s take on Android in a vehicle. It provides a simplified UI with immediate access to applications which can assist and improve your experience when on the move.
- Android OS: Google’s mobile operating system, which is used by over 85% of smartphone users worldwide.
- Assistant: Google’s voice assistant service, which works in conjunction with a lot of its services and connected-home devices. It also serves as the basis for services like Duplex.
- AdMob: Google’s service to help with mobile app monetisation.
- AdSense: A free and simple way to earn money by implementing ads on your website.
- Analytics: Allows you to measure the return-on-investment from advertisements and track growth on social networking sites and applications
- Blogger: A blog-publishing service that allows multi-user blogs with time-stamped entries.
- Calendar: Google’s time management and scheduling service. It also comes preinstalled on Android devices.
- Chrome: Google’s web browser for all major operating systems.
- Chrome Web Store: A platform for users to add extensions and extra functionality to their devices that use Chrome.
- Docs: Software for users to create documents online with collaborative features and more. Basically, an online rival to Microsoft’s Word.
- Drawings: A web-based software to make diagrams in collaboration with others, it includes flowcharts and concepts maps but is not limited to them.
- Drive: Google’s cloud-based storage system.
- Earth: Software that renders a 3D representation of Earth with the help of satellite imagery.
- Finance: A website hosted by Google that provides financial information.
- Forms: A service that allows users to generate survey forms.
- Firebase: A mobile and web development platform acquired by Google in 2014.
- Gboard: A keyboard application for mobile devices — native to Android and an add-on for iOS.
- Gmail: Google’s email service.
- Google Alerts: A service that sends emails to users when it finds new results related to their searches.
- Google Cast: A Google-developed protocol that enables users to use their mobile devices and computers to start and control the playback of content.
- Google Classroom: A web-service for schools to streamline the process of sharing files amongst students and teachers and other functions.
- Google Duo: Google’s mobile application-based video calling service.
- Google Expeditions: An education application that allows for learning using VR and AR tours.
- Google Shopping: An online service that allows users to compare prices between different websites and make purchases.
- Google Fi: A telecommunication service for US residents provided by Google.
- Google Fit: Google’s health tracking platform which works within the Android and iOS ecosystem. It acquires data from other platforms and presents it to users.
- Google Flights: An online flight search service which allows users to book tickets via third-party suppliers.
- Google Fonts: A library of free licensed font families.
- Google Groups: Allows users to create online forums and email-based communities to allow for conversations.
- Google Input Tools: An online tool that allows users to generate text in their desired language.
- Google One: A subscription service that offers expanded cloud storage across Google’s various services.
- Google Pay: A digital wallet and online payment by Google that utilises features like tap-to-pay and works on websites, in-app purchases and stores.
- Google Photos: A service that allows for sharing and online storage of images.
- Google Play: A distribution service owned by Google that offers applications and subscriptions for mobile devices.
- Google Play Books: Google’s distribution service for selling books.
- Google Play Games: Google’s service for games that are offered on the PlayStore. It helps users access leaderboards, view gamer profiles and manages cloud saves.
- Google Play Movies & TV: Google’s distribution service for renting or buying movies.
- Google Play Music: A service that allows users to purchase music and download it onto their mobile devices. Its premium service also provides access to YouTube music.
- Google Store: An online store for purchasing Google-made devices and accessories.
- Google Street View: An interactive service that displays panoramic shots of locations. This feature is built into Google Maps and Google Earth.
- Hangouts: Google’s messaging client for consumers.
- Keep: A note-taking service that allows users to make lists and notes including images, links and more.
- Maps: A web-mapping service which offers navigation, Panasonic views of streets, real-time traffic conditions and more.
- Messages: Google’s SMS and instant messaging service, which added support for RCS messages.
- News: A news aggregator developed by Google.
- Play Protect: A built-in malware protection system for Android. Its primary function is to scan applications that are installed on a device that inform users.
- Scholar: A search engine that indexes scholarly literature.
- Search: Provides results for any queries users may have.
- Sheets: A web-based free spreadsheet program offered by Google. It offers a mobile application.
- Sites: A web page creation tool offered by Google.
- Slides: A web-based free program that allows users to create presentations. It offers a mobile application.
- Tilt Brush: A 3D-painting virtual reality application for Windows.
- Translate: A translation tool that integrates into Google’s applications to translate web pages and entered text.
- Voice: A telephone service which offers functionalities like call forwarding and voicemail.
- Waze: A GPS based navigation software.
- Waze Local: An application that allows local businesses to serve advertisements to Waze users.
- Wear OS by Google: Google’s software platform for smartwatches.
- YouTube: Google’s world-renowned video-sharing platform. It offers videos from ranging from educational content to video games, music videos and more.
- YouTube Kids: A version of YouTube with regulated content.
- YouTube Music: Google’s attempt to develop a music streaming service. All music videos and songs available on YouTube can be viewed in this application.
- YouTube TV: An internet-based television service which offers live TV, on-demand video and DVR features.
- Data Studio: A data reporting and visualisation tool.
- G Suite: A service that provides productivity tools to organisations with the aim of increased collaboration and simplified workflows.
- Google Ads: An online advertising platform where advertisers can display their products, services within Google’s network after paying a certain fee.
- Google Cloud Platform: Google’s suite of cloud computing services.
- Google Digital Garage: A non-profit platform for learning digital skills.
- Google Domains: A service by Google which offers domain name registration, DNS hosting and more.
- Google Cloud Search: Allows employees to run searches across company data to find the required information.
- Google Manufacturer Center: A platform to upload product information which includes images and descriptions.
- Google Maps Platform: A service that helps create features for Google Maps.
- Google Merchant Center: A tool that allows store owners to upload store and product data to Google to make it available on the Shopping platform.
- Google My Business: A platform that allows business owners to manage their business listing, reply to inquiries and maintain contact with customers.
- Google Shopping Campaigns: A service that helps those advertising their products to do so in a more robust manner.
- Google Surveys: A cost-effective way for users to get valuable customer insights.
- Google Tag Manager: Allows businesses to tag their products/work with relevant terms to optimise results.
- Google Trends: A service which analyses search queries across regions and languages.
- Google Web Designer: A program that allows the creation of HTML5 ads or other content.
- Google+ Brands: A tool to make posts related to your services/companies that are linked with Google’s business-related services.
- Optimize: A service that uses results from other Google products to help create a site experience that will be well received by consumers.
- Search Console: This service allows webmasters to check indexing status’ of their websites and optimise their visibility.
Discontinued/ Scheduled to be Discontinued
- App Maker: An environment made for the G-Suite, which facilitated making business apps with less coding required from the developer’s side. The service will be permanently shut down on January 19, 2021.
- Google Cloud Print: A web-based printing service that allowed users to print from any web-connected printer using any device. It is scheduled to be inactive starting December 31, 2020.
- Hire: A recruitment service that comes as part of GSuite. Starting September 1, 2020, this service will no longer be available.
- Fabric: A mobile app development platform initially owned by Twitter. It is set to be shut down and completely merged into Firebase from May 4, 2020.
- Material Theme Editor: This was a platform made to allow designers to better customise Material Design for their applications after Google unveiled an updated version of Material Design in 2018.
- Google Station: A service by Google which offered free WiFi across several locations globally — 400 railway stations in India. The shutdown for this was announced in February 2020.
- One Today: A platform to help donate money to non-profit causes.
- Google Correlate: Utilised uploaded data to look for matching patterns in a fixed volume of search results.
- Google Translator Toolkit: This software allowed users to create and share translations.
- Google Fusion Tables: An online service which allowed for easy creation of visualisations of certain types of data — data tables and map data are just some of the options that were available.
- Google Bulletin: A service that provided local news snippets uploaded by users — these could contain photos or videos.
- Touring Bird: This service helped tourists book local tours and activities.
- Datally: This application helped users manage their data usage and locate public WiFI hotspots. The application is no longer available on the PlayStore. Devices that have it installed it displays a message saying it’s incompatible with Android 10.
- Youtube Leanback: An experience built by YouTube (mostly for TVs) which would play videos based on a user’s feed without requiring any interaction on their part — like literally, just lean back and watch.
- Follow Your World: Allowed users to mark points of interest and get notified when Google updated its images for that location.
- G Suite Training: Also known as Synergyse, this was an extension which allowed users to understand and learn how to use certain functions offered by G Suite products.
- Youtube Messages: Allowed users to share videos and converse in a threaded format within the YouTube application.
- Hangout on Air: This service allowed users to organise a multi-user video calls through Hangouts while simultaneously live-streaming the call.
- Dragonfly: A search engine that allowed for censorship meant for use in China.
- Google Jump: A cloud-based video stitching service that mostly helped with VR video.
- Youtube Gaming: An independent application with a focus on Gaming, released as a competitor to Twitch. It was where Google initially featured SuperChat and other additions which made their way to YouTube after YouTube Gaming was shutdown.
- Google Cloud Messaging: This service allowed developers to send data or information to their applications via developer-run servers. Its features were absorbed into Firebase Cloud Messaging.
- Data Saver Extension for Chrome: Allowed sites to loaded faster with lesser consumption of data by running webpages through Google servers for compression. The extension was removed and instead added as a feature known as Lite mode to Chrome for Android.
- Inbox by Gmail: An application which aimed to categorise emails using Google’s code and designed to increase productivity.
- Google+: Google’s idea of a social network based around forming circles.
- Google URL Shortener: A URL shortening service which was replaced by Firebase Dynamic Links.
- Google Spotlight Stories: An in-house film studio which focused upon producing 360-degree videos for smartphones.
- Google Notification Widget aka Mr.Jingles: The bell icon visible in the top-right icon of Google’s various pages which showed notifications and provided an avenue for quick access.
- Youtube Video Annotations: Replaced by End Screen and Cards due to the mobile revolution. YouTube Video Annotations were a way for creators to provide quick links for their other content.
- Google Realtime API: An API which helped developers build collaborative applications using JSON-based data models.
- Google Nearby Notifications: This service provided notifications with access to information about your current location.
- Tez: Google’s UPI-based payment service for India, which was later rebranded as Google Pay.
- Google Goggles: A service that can be called the early version of Google Lens. This software could use images to recognise objects in photos but was very limited.
- Save to Google Chome Extension: An extension that allowed users to save webpages alongside results from Image Search.
- Encrypted Search: A Google search page that offered SSL encryption before it became a feature in the main site.
- Google Site Search: A feature that allowed websites to use Google to search for data within their website. It was replaced by Google Cloud Search.
- Tango: An API for AR-based applications. Replaced by ARCore.
- Google Chrome Apps: Applications which function in web browsers. These will exist for Chrome OS, but support for other OSs will end in June 2022.
- Youtube Video Editor: A toolkit that allowed creators to edit that videos directly on YouTube.
- Google Map Maker: A community-based feature that allowed Google to improve the Google Maps experience by making suggested additions which included but were not limited to places, info about them and road segments.
- Google Spaces: An application for users to have discussions in groups.
- Google Hands-Free: An application that hoped to streamline a user’s shopping experience by allowing users to pay by saying “I’ll pay with Google”.
- Panoramio: A service acquired by Google which allowed users to share geotagged images.
- Google Showtimes: This feature allowed users to look up cinemas, films and show timings based on their location. This feature was built into traditional search results.
- Web Hosting in Google Drive: A feature which allowed users to host websites using Drive.
- Google Swiffy: A web-based tool which converted SWF files to HTML5.
- Freebase: An open-source repository of facts.
- Google Now: A feature of the Google mobile application, which presented predicted data in a card format.
- Google Compare: A site that allowed users to compare offers on finance-based products like insurances, credit cards, etc.
- Google Maps Engine: Software that provided users with features like the ability to save geographic data, analyse it and other collaborative functions.
- Songza: A service that provided curated playlists.
- Google Code: A programming project hosting service similar to GitHub.
- Picasa: A cross-platform tool that allowed users to organise, view and edit digital photos. It was acquired by Google and then merged into Google Photos.
- Google Flu Trends: This service provided estimates of Flu afflicted persons in a particular area based on search patterns.
- Google Catalogs: This service allowed brand/shop owners to display their product catalogues on the internet for consumers to see.
- Google Helpouts: An online collaborative website which allowed users to share their knowledge over live video in real-time.
- BebaPay: A type of electronic ticketing platform developed by Google in partnership with Equity Bank, in Nairobi, Kenya.
- Orkut: A social networking website owned and operated by Google. Its main aim was to help users to meet old and new friends.
- Google Questions and Answers: A question-answer service which replaced the fee-based Google Answers.
- BufferBox: A company acquired by Google. It offered a service which allowed consumers to be able to pick-up their online purchases.
- Google Schemer: This service allowed users to explore or share things to do.
- Google Notifier: An application which notified users about newly received mails.
- Google Offers: An application which provided users with deals, generally in the form of coupons, for use online or in offline locations.
- Google Checkout: An online payment processing service which Google provided to simplify the online purchase process.
- Google Trader:
- iGoogle: This service allowed users to create custom Google start pages.
- Google Latitude: A service which allowed users to share their location before this function was built into Google Maps.
- Google Reader: A Google-run RSS/Atom feed aggregator.
- Building Maker: This allowed users to build 3D buildings for use in Google Earth.
- Google Talk: An instant messaging service.
- Google SMS Search: A service that provided search results over SMS.
- Google Cloud Connect: A cloud computing plugin for Microsoft Office that allowed for synchronisation of files to Google Docs.
- Picnik: A service which allowed users to edit photos online.
- AdSense for Feeds: A service that allowed to implement Adsense on RSS feeds.
- Google Insights for Search: This is a service that was merged into Google Trends. It offered similar results to Trends but also returned visual representations of results segregated according to regions.
- Postini: A service that could filter spam and malware.
- Meebo: A company that provided services ranging from an instant messenger service, widgets, mobile applications and more.
- Needlebase: A tool that allowed users to gather data from web pages and turn into a database without issues like duplication of data.
- Knol: A Wikipedia-like service made by Google. It was supposed to aggregate user-written articles.
- Google Wave: A collaborative online service that allows users to work on documents in real-time.
- Google Flu Vaccine Finder: A maps service that showed vaccination locations near your area.
- Google One Pass: A payment platform for online news publishers.
- Google Related: A browser assistant, which was supposed to provide more useful and interesting information while browsing the web.
- Urchin: A web statistics analysis program. It could read web server log file contents and display the related traffic information.
- Slide: A photo sharing software for social networking services which was acquired by Google.
- Google Friend Connect: A free social networking site run by Google, it allowed users to update/share their information via third-party sites.
- Jaiku: A Twitter-like service based in Finland; It allowed for microblogging.
- Google Code Search: A product from Google Labs that allowed users to search for open-source code on the internet.
- Google Health: A Google-run personal health record platform.
- Apture: This service allowed web pages to link multimedia into a dynamic layer above their pages, meaning users could access specific data like videos and related images without having to leave the current page.
- Google Buzz: A social networking tool which replaced Google Wave.
- Google Notebook: An online application that allowed users to save and organise information in the form of notes, clip texts, images and saved links.
- Google PowerMeter: A software project by Google’s philanthropic arm that helped consumers track usage of electricity in their home.
- Google Squared: A service that helped extract information and relationships from presented data and lay it in a spreadsheet format.
- Google Sidewiki: A web annotation tool which allowed users to make and view comments about a website.
- Aardvark: A social search engine which revolved around users asking questions and receiving answers.
- Google Pack: An archive that provided users with multiple software tools in one download.
- Google Desktop: A program that allowed users to search for files, emails, music, photos and more from their desktop.
- Google Fast Flip: An online news aggregator with a paper flipping-like animation.
- Google Labs: An incubator created by Google to showcase and test new projects publicly.
- Google Rebang: A site that helped users search trends.
- Google Directory: A service dedicated to providing users with categorised information.
- Google Image Swirl: An experiment from Google Labs, this service organised image-search results, i.e. it would separate images of jaguar the animal and the car and present them.
- Google Real-Time Search: A service that allowed searches for tweets according to their time and date.
- Google Script Converter: An online transliteration tool part of Google Labs.
- Google Sets: A service that could generate a ‘set’ of results. If you made a search for three colours, “Red, Blue, Green” a result including other colours would be generated.
- Googles Specialized Search: This type of search allowed users to receive results across a limited index.
- Google Hotspot: A dedicated service to provide local recommendations for restaurants, stores, etc. Its functionalities were merged into Google Places and Google’s mobile applications.
- Gizmo5: A VOIP communications platform acquired by Google.
- Real Estate on Google Maps: A search tool that provided results which showed available real estate listings.
- Fflick: A website that provided reviews, information and news about films that were aggregated from sources like twitter.
- GOOG-411: A voice-powered directory which connected users to businesses.
- Google SearchWiki: A service which allowed users to annotate on search results and reorganise the order in which they appeared. These were personalised and did not reflect for other users.
- Marratech e-meetings: A web-based conferencing software acquired by Google.
- Google Ride Finder: A service that used GPS data to pinpoint and map locations of taxis and shuttle vehicles and allowed contact to be established with the service provider.
- Google Toolbar for Firefox: A software addition that brought functions like direct sharing of pages, writing side-wiki’s to the Firefox browser.
- Google Mashup Editor: A Tool that enabled users to create AJAX-based applications.
- Google Shared Stuff: This service allowed users to bookmark pages and share them.
- Grand Central: A VOIP service acquired by Google which served as the basis for Google Voice.
- Dodgeball: A social network where users could enter their current location to get notified about friends in the area and points of interest.
- Google Audio Ads: This service allowed advertisers to run advertisements relevant to users of an area.
- Google Lively: A web-based virtual environment which utilised avatars and allowed interaction amongst users.
- SearchMash: An experimental search engine utilised by Google to test new search technologies, concepts and interfaces. It received a public release but was pulled quickly.
- Google Page Creator: Allowed consumers to create websites with no knowledge of HTML. It was integrated into Google Sites
- Hello: A part of Google’s Picasa, which allowed you to share digital pictures seamlessly with minimal effort.
- Google Web Accelerator: Software that utilised cached or compressed data and saved copies from Google’s servers to provide faster load times.
- Zeitgeist: A service that provided a weekly, monthly and yearly snapshot of what people were searching for on Google. Most of its features have been incorporated into Google Trends.
- Google Click-to-Call: This service could connect users to an advertiser after they disclosed their contact number. Although not known as Click-to-Call anymore, this service technically still exists.
- Google Video Player: Allowed users to play videos in a custom .gvi format. It was later merged into Youtube
- Google Video Marketplace: Announced at CES 2006, this was supposed to serve as a store for movies and videos from popular networks and sports leagues. As of today, searching for this will lead you to Google’s search engine for videos — similar to Google Images.
- Google Answers: Google’s rival software for Yahoo Answers. It could not meet the demand, and after various iterations in different locations over several years (2002-2014), it was shut down. It is now present in the read-only state.
- Writely: A web-based word processor, later acquired by Google and merged in Google Docs.
- Google Public Service Search: A type of Google Custom Search catered to governmental, non-profit and academic organisational searches. It provided results without ads.
- Google Deskbar: Offered the ability to run Google searches without leaving the current application on Windows 98, ME, 2000 or XP systems.
While not as vast as its lineup of software products, Google also offers a variety of devices. These exist to showcase its advancements by providing an avenue for the experience the company intended for its users when the software was developed. Their list of hardware includes the following.
- Pixel line of smartphones: Devices that try to offer the smartphone and Android experience that Google intended for consumers.
- Connected home devices: Consist of Nest, Google Home, Chromecast products.
- ChromeOS-based devices: Include the PixelBook, PixelBook Go and Pixel Slate.
- Google Clips: An AI-based camera that could analyse moments and take photos based on what it termed as an interesting moment.
- Cardboard: Google’s first take on the VR-experience, a cardboard box to mount your phone into to view 360-degree content.
- Google Daydream: A more dedicated foray into the VR-experience with a much more robust headset and remote, Google has decided to cease support for new devices in 2019.
- Chromecast Audio: An accessory which could convert a traditional speaker into a smart speaker.
- Google Search Appliance: A rack-mounted device which allowed for document indexing.
- Chromebook Pixel: A ChromeOS based laptop from 2013.
- Google Nexus: Google’s series of smartphones that it built in collaboration with other OEM’s to offer stock Android.
- Project Ara: A modular smartphone project by Google.
- Google Wallet Card: A card linked with your Google Wallet account.
- Nexus Player and Nexus Q: Digital media players.
- Revolv: A smart home hub.
- Google Play Edition: A series where Google would offer stock Android on flagship smartphones by other brands.
- Google Glass Explorer Edition: The first Google Glass device made available to developers for software development purposes.
- Google TV: A smart TV platform.
How has the company changed over the years?
When an organisation’s existence spans over a long period of time, changes within the management are not the only ones that occur. There are profound shifts in work ethics and employee culture, to name a few. As of recent years, Google has not been on the positive side of things, with employees organising walkouts due to the companies views and inaction towards issues like sexual harassment and racial discrimination.
Google was also heavily criticised for creating a search engine, codenamed Dragonfly, for China in association with the government that would carry forward their censorship laws.
In 2018, an internal memo leaked by The Intercept brought the organisation under extreme scrutiny for its supposed change of stance about data censorship in China — in 2010, Google had decided to redirect users of Google China to Google Hong Kong to allow access to unfiltered information.
The leaked document informed the public about a search engine codenamed Dragonfly which would comply with the Chinese government’s regulation of information accessible to the public. As reported by BuzzFeed News, amidst protests related to the company’s actions, Karan Bhatia, Google’s VP of Public Policy declared to the US Senate that the project had been terminated.
But this transgression has not been the only one that was heavily criticised. In 2018, Google was found to be working with the U.S. Department of Defence, on what was known as Project Maven. This was an AI-based system for object recognition which could aid in warfare — particularly drone strikes with image recognition. Scores of employees also staged protests when Google was found bidding for US defence contracts.
In 2018, due to continued pressure from employees, Google announced new guidelines for usage of its AI platform and iterated that it will not be renewing its weapon-related contracts with government organisations.
Anti-trust complaints which have received newfound importance from the EU Commission have also cropped up against Google. In 2017, Google had to pay a fine of $2.7 billion because of its online shopping practices. A complaint from Foundem — a vertical search engine for price comparisons — has also come back into the light with a judge ordering Google to provide its search algorithms to an SEO expert. In this case, the search engine giant has been accused of highlighting its Google Shopping service and relegating Foundem to later pages on its search engine.
What does the future hold?
The widespread effect of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic prompted Google to call off I/O 2020 event, which served as a source of information for those outside the company as Google announces several of its advancements and products here, which makes talking about future changes a lot more complicated.
The Pixel 4 has been one of the most notable letdowns of the year and its cloud-based gaming service, Stadia, has not been what people assumed it would be. Since launching, the platform has been criticised for its limited catalogue of games and inefficient performance.
Although, Android development has remained steady, with Android 11 having started with its developer previews in March 2020. This new version intends to bring native screen recording (the unpolished version from Android 10 was scrapped in its final release) and other backend updates to smartphones later this year.
Google’s Cloud Platform is another service which may dictate a lot of Google’s future as most of the tech is seeing a gradual shift to the cloud. The service provides an organisation with tools that we know and love allowing for workflows without any hindrance.
But from the general reception that the technology-giant seems to have received for its products in 2019 shows that the future for Google may be one full of trials.