In Summary
  • In addition to search, the company would have far reaching effects on the world around it.
  • In Kenya, Google placed archives of the Kenya Gazette online, from 1895 to 2012 for free, and has online collections from the Kenya National Archives.
  • The Android operating system grew from a company Android, owned by Andy Rubin, which Google acquired in 2005

Today, Google’s dominance in our world is self-evident. These days, we talk about Googling something instead of searching for it, and we use the phrase “Google is your friend” to rebuke people who ask about things we think they can easily “google”.

We use Google Maps to find our way around, and the Android operating system, created by Google, is used in more than 18,000 digital devices, according to a 2014 survey.

The story of Google goes back to 1995, when Sergey Brin and Larry Page met at Stanford University. According to Wired magazine, Larry Page had been admitted to the university as a graduate student and Sergey Brin, had been assigned to show him around. They argued a lot. However, one year after they met, they had set up Google’s first home page using Stanford University’s computer network, placing the hardware in their dorm rooms.

The search system they created, which they first called Backrub, favoured links to pages that had more links in them, ranking them above those that had fewer links. That improved on the search engines that existed at the time, which searched based only on text.

In the end, the fledgling search engine grew so big that at some point, it occupied half of Stanford University’s total bandwidth, often bringing down the university’s internet connection, according to Wired. The duo was forced to find an off campus office for their invention.

ARCHIVAL INFORMATION ONLINE

According to Google’s own blog, the company was incorporated in 1998, after a co-founder of Sun Microsystems (creator of the Java programming language) provided funding of $100,000 (Sh10 million at today’s exchange rate).

The money allowed the duo to move into a garage owned by Susan Wojcicki, one of the company’s early employees, who today is the CEO of YouTube. Its mission was “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

The company grew quickly. According to a May 2008, article in Computerworld, Google overtook Yahoo! in US internet users in April 2004, with 141 million visitors to Yahoo!’s, 140.6 million, and become the most visited site in the United States.

Four months later, Google would complete its initial public offering (IPO) on August 19, 2004, with each share costing US$85 (Sh8,773 at current exchange rate), according to Nasdaq records. The company’s market capitalisation was US$23billion (Sh2.37 trillion).

Two months later, the company was more valuable than Yahoo!, with its value rising to US$50.8 billion (Sh5.24 trillion) to Yahoo!’s US$47.8billion (Sh4.93 trillion). Alphabet, Google’s parent company has a current market capitalisation US$677.2  billion (Sh70 trillion), a 29-fold increase in value from when Google went public.

In addition to search, the company would have far reaching effects on the world around it. One way was through Doodles, the playful changes the company makes to its logo to commemorate important events. Every Jamhuri Day from 2010 to 2016 has been marked with a Doodle.

Also, the late environmentalist, Wangari Maathai, Kimani Maruge who enrolled in primary school at the ripe old age of 84, and the East African common market have all been commemorated with Doodles.

Google made much of what it made free for everyone. By putting large tranches of archival information online, Google helped bring information, much of it historical, to people who ordinarily would never have seen it. 

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