September 10, 2008
Larry Page (left) and Sergey Brin, Co-founders and presidents of Google Inc. (Kim Kulish/Corbis)

Larry Page (left) and Sergey Brin, Co-founders and presidents of Google Inc. (Kim Kulish/Corbis)

Google turns 10

Ten years ago in September 1998 in Menlo Park, Calif., Sergey Brin and Larry Page founded a search engine company called Google. The name was derived from a playful misspelling of "Googol," a term for the number 1 followed by 100 zeros. Before long, Google transformed the way computer users — including journalists — searched for information on the Internet.

"There are search engines and then there is Google," said new media professor Sree Sreenivasan in the Columbia Journalism Review less than two years after the company was founded.

"It’s difficult to underestimate the influence of Google on how journalists obtain information," Sreenivasan, now dean of student affairs and head of the new media program at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, told the Newseum. "Google makes it easy to find information, and journalists are in the information business."

How did the company become so successful that we now "Google" for information?

Brin and Page developed a proprietary page ranking formula that quickly delivered more relevant search results than its competitors. Google surprised the technology industry at a time when other online companies were suffering setbacks. The company went public in 2004, making Brin and Page instant billionaires.

Journalists benefit from Google’s bold mission to "organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful." But there is also a downside. Sreenivasan said that sometimes reporters assume a Google search can find just about anything they need for a story.

Some journalists and human rights organizations have criticized Google’s cooperation with Chinese officials to block controversial content in exchange for a presence in that country. Google can also be perceived as a threat to traditional news and media organizations.

The company’s advertising revenues jumped 170 percent from 2005 to 2007. During the same time, overall newspaper ad spending dropped by 11 percent, according to Editor & Publisher.

On Sept. 2, 2008, Google launched Chrome, a Web browser to compete with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. It will be interesting to watch developments between Google and the news business over the next ten years.

Newseum visitors can learn more about Google's role in news gathering in the News Corporation News History Gallery and in the Bloomberg Internet, TV and Radio Gallery.

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