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Google is an Internet search engine that not only stores information about web pages, but also the pages themselves: it caches a large part of the World Wide Web.

It was founded in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two Stanford Ph.D. candidates, who developed a technologically advanced method for finding information on the Internet. The company is headquartered in Mountain View, California. As of 2002, it was the most popular search engine, handling upwards of 80% of all internet searches through its website and clients like Yahoo! and AOL.

The word "Google" is a play on the word 'googol', which was coined by Milton Sirotta, nephew of American mathematician Edward Kasner, to refer to the number represented by 1 followed by 100 zeros. Google's use of the term reflects the company's mission to organize the immense amount of information available on the Web. Originally the search engine was called 'Googol'. When the founders presented their project to an angel investor, they received a cheque made out to 'Google' ! They thought about it for a couple weeks, then decided to open an account in the name 'Google'.

Google has become such commonly used, that the verbs "googling" or "to google" is often used to express that you are doing a web search on something (see references below).

Google uses an algorithm called PageRank to rank web pages that match a given search string. The PageRank algorithm computes a recursive figure of merit for web pages, based on the weighted sum of the PageRanks of the pages linking to them. The PageRank thus derives from human-generated links, and correlates well with human concepts of 'importance'. Previous keyword-based methods of ranking search results, used by many search engines that were once more popular than Google, would rank pages by how often the search terms occurred in the page, or how strongly associated the search terms were with a each resulting page. In addition to PageRank, Google also uses other secret criteria for determining the ranking of pages on result lists.

Google employs a farm of more than 10,000 GNU/Linux computers to answer search requests and to index the web. The indexing is performed by a program ("googlebot") which periodically requests new copies of the web pages it already knows about. The links in these pages are examined to discover new pages to be added to its database. The index database and web page cache is several terabytes in size.

Google also has a usenet archive (called "Google Groups"), a news service, experimental machine translation services (see link below) and an image search function (called "Google Images").

Google Hacks from O'Reilly & Associates is a book about many tips of Google.

Table of contents

The Commercial Value of Google Listings

Since Google has become one of the most popular search engines, many webmasters have become interested in following and attempting to explain changes to the rankings of their websites.

An industry of consultants has arisen to assist websites in improving their rankings at Google, as well as other search engines. This field, called search engine optimization, attempts to discern patterns in search engine listings, and then develop a methodology for increasing rankings.

Forums can be found on the web where phenomena such as the "Google dance" are discussed. The Google dance is a period of a few days towards the end of a month when Google updates its database and ranking algorithms. Changes to the database can be observed by examining the number of results to a search such as "link:www.yahoo.com".

During the "dance" period, a site's ranking may change dramatically over a short period of time and different Google servers (e.g., www.google.com, www2.google.com, www3.google.com, www.google.co.uk etc.) may give different results for the same search. The dance period appears to coincide with the time at which the googlebot examines "stable" sites. Rapidly changing sites, highly ranked sites and news sites are examined more often, although apart from news, only minor adjustments are made to rankings during most of the month. In some cases it may take two or three months before new pages appear in search results.

One of Google's chief challenges is that as its algorithms and results have gained the trust of web users, the profit to be gained by a commercial web site in subverting those results has increased dramatically. Some search engine optimization firms have attempted to inflate their Google ranking by various artificial means, attempting to draw more searchers to their clients' sites. Google has apparently managed to defeat or weaken these attempts by reducing the ranking of sites known to use them.

Google publishes a set of guidelines for website owners interested in improving their rankings using legitimate optimization consultants. [1] (http://www.google.com/webmasters/seo)

Google and the Courts

For its efforts, Google has drawn a possibly barratrous lawsuit from a company, SearchKing[?], that sought to sell advertisements on pages with inflated Google rankings. Google has stated in its defense that its rankings are its constitutionally protected opinions of the web sites that it lists. [2] (http://research.yale.edu/lawmeme/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=807) [3] (http://www.searchking.com/news/sknews.htm)

Google has been criticized for placing long-term cookies on users' machines, enabling them to track a user's search terms over time. However, most of Google's services can be used with cookies disabled.

A number of organizations have used DMCA laws of the USA to demand that Google remove references to material on other sites that they claim copyright over. Google typically handles this by removing the link as requested and including a link to the complaint in the search results. There have also been complaints that the "Google cache" feature violates copyright, however the consensus seems to be that caching is a normal part of the functionality of the web, and that HTTP provides adequate mechanisms for requesting that caching be disabled (which Google presumably respects; Google also honors the robots.txt file.)

In 2002, there were news reports that the Google search engine had been banned in China. A mirror site (in all respects, including mirrored text, see link below) called elgooG proved useful to get around the ban. The ban was later lifted, and reports indicated that it was not Google itself that was targeted. Rather, Google's feature of a cached version of a website, would allow Chinese users to circumvent any ban of a website itself, by merely visiting the cache instead. It is interesting to note that a better caching service is provided by http://www.archive.org/, yet this site was not banned.

"Google News"

Google introduced a beta release of an automated news compilation service, "Google News" in April 2002. At first, articles from 150 sources were updated hourly. By September 2002, the number of sources had been expanded to over 4000, and continuous updating was initiated.

In February 2003, Google acquired Pyra Labs, owner of blogger.com[?], a pioneering and leading blog-hosting website. Upon first glance, the acquisition seemed inconsistent with the general "mission" of Google. However, it was soon theorized that Google perhaps plans to utilize information gleaned from blog postings to improve the speed and relevancy of articles contained in Google News.

"Google Answers"

In May 2002, Google launched a new service called "Google answers". Google answers is an extension to the conventional search - rather than doing the search yourself, you pay someone else to do the search. Customers ask questions, offer a price for an answer, and researchers answer them. Prices for questions range from $2 to $200, Google keeps 25% of the payment, passing the rest to the researchers, and charges an additional 50c listing fee. In May 2003 this service came out of beta, though the site hasn't attracted as many customers as hoped. See also: Dennis Hwang -- Search engine -- PageRank -- Link popularity

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