What has Google ever done for us?

30 Sep 2008

It has been 10 years since we first saw the quirky doodle on the Google homepage (my favourite is the 50th anniversary of the LEGO brick – January 28, 2008), and in a way its development has coincided with the evolution of technology firms and the internet as increasingly familiar parts of our every-day lives.

Reaching across everything from shopping to communication to creativity to getting us places, Google has almost been with us every step of the way on our journey from teetering tech tots on dial-up to matter-of-fact digital natives with an iPhone at the ready.

So what has Google ever done for us? In 10 short years, it has made some big changes to our lives. We could no more ask Page and Brin to go google ‘get lost’, than throw a spanner in the Gutenberg printing press.

1. Google Search

While search engines such as Lycos and AltaVista were on the scene before Google, this invention of Stanford graduates Larry page and Sergey Brin was the first to use a unique page-ranking algorithm that has steadily evolved and by and large produces relevant results.

Google’s search engine is the most widely used globally, and has even made it into the dictionary as a verb for finding something on the web.

2. Gmail or Google Mail

Again, Google was not the first with a webmail service, only launching Gmail as recently as February 2004 in an invite-only format until it was thrown open to the general public in 2007. However, it was the first to offer an entire gigabyte (GB) of free storage, which is now at about 7GB and rising.

This meant that in theory no single email ever had to be deleted again, and many people began using their Gmail account as a form of free online backup for important documents, pictures and files.

3. Google Maps

The beauty of Google Maps is not only that web surfers can find driving/walking directions from and to anywhere in the world, but also the evolution of this service when it reached the general public: Google Maps mash-ups.

Mash-ups meant that Google Maps was being integrated into websites, blogs and other services, which gave rise to almost unlimited possibilities: planning a trip on the Paris Metro, tracking a flight path, finding a list of local Chinese takeaways or even telling you what sights you will hit if you walk in a straight line around the world.

4. Google Android http://www.openhandsetalliance.com/index.html

Although we are yet to feel the impact of Google’s Android open-source operating system for mobile handsets, time will show how pivotal this collaboration is between handset manufacturers, technology firms and operators to make the mobile phone as interoperable as the desktop when it comes to applications.

Other great things Google has developed obviously must include Google Earth for its fantastic satellite images of the earth and breathtaking views of the stars, as well as Google Streetview, which while not yet available in Ireland, is probably just as well considering sunbathing, general thievery and even picking your nose may no longer be safe when the Google van arrives on your street.

By Marie Boran

Pictured: Hip hip hooray! Google celebrates its 10th birthday