In a world where there are more web pages than people, search engines bring order to the internet. They allow us to find the information we need, quickly and effectively, and help us make sense of the estimated 1,200 petabytes of data that exist online. Of course, among the major search engines, one in particular stands supreme — the almighty Google.
When Larry Page and Sergey Brin published Google’s first search page way back in 1996, they surely couldn’t have predicted the influence the company would come to have in the years that followed.
Page and Brin had a goal to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. In doing so, they started down the path of making one of the most influential companies the world has ever seen — a service so essential it has become an integral part of modern-day life. We don’t simply ‘search’ anymore; instead, we ‘Google’.
In May 2020, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, was rated the 13th biggest corporation in the world with a market value of $919 billion.
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The concept of PageRank
Google was born on the back of an innovative search algorithm conceived by Page and Brin while still at Stanford University. Page had an idea to build a ranking system based mostly on how often a site was linked to by other websites — an idea that gave rise to PageRank, the foundation algorithm of Google’s search engine.
Google search (originally called BackRub) first went live on Stanford’s network in August 1996. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.
As times change, so do habits and the fastest-growing area of internet use these days is within the mobile market. Year on year, our reliance on devices continues to increase and mobiles now account for around 53% of all internet use.
The growth in device usage was another area Google was quick to identify and the company invested heavily in its GoogleMaps, StreetView and Google Earth products at a very early stage. While competitor apps and software exist, Google products still tend to dominate these markets.
Product search engines
E-commerce has been growing consistently over the last few years; however, the recent Coronavirus further accelerated our move to online shopping. As populations around the world stayed home, our use of online stores increased massively — none more so than Amazon.
On Monday 20th July 2020, Jeff Bezos added an incredible $13 billion to his fortune. It was the biggest single-day, single-person jump since the Bloomberg Billionaire Index started in 2012.
Amazon is, in many ways, just a massive product search engine. Of course, the Amazon Marketplace goes a little further with its virtual storefronts; however, the site is still many people’s first choice when it comes to product searches.
Industry-specific product search engines
If you’re looking for specialized components, tools or parts, nothing rivals using an industry-specific search engine. Sites like Octopart use powerful search algorithms to compare millions of different pieces and provide technical information on each.
Specialist product search sites are relatively new but serve to plug the hole that search engines generally fail to fill. They are ideal for finding industry-specific products where use, size, strength, and manufacturing materials are of the greatest significance — products that are unlikely to be found on the more commercial, general search engines.
Price Comparison sites
In recent years, price comparison sites have become our go-to choice for holidays, flights, insurance, cellphones and utilities. It seems we just can’t resist a bargain and price comparison sites do a fantastic job of scouring markets to find the best deals.
At the heart of these sites lie powerful search algorithms capable of combing multiple online services and databases to bring you the best price. Yet another example of search making sense of the web.