The 27th of September is Google’s birthday, with the company reaching the age of 21, marking the occasion with the now customary Google Doogle.
Beginning life as the research project of two Stanford students back in 1996, the search algorithm was first called “Backrub”, but would soon be changed to Google, a reference to a “googol”, or a number with 100 zeros.
After going public in 2004, the company has now become a cornerstone of the internet, launching Google News in 2002, Gmail in 2004, Google Maps in 2005, Google Chrome in 2008, and acquiring Youtube in 2010.
Moving forward, the company has now moved into numerous avenues, not limited to machine learning, driverless cars and voice assistants, proving that Google sees itself as much more than a search engine.
21 years later, it would be difficult to imagine the internet without it, with 63000 Google searches made every second, as of 2018, and the verb “to google” added to the Oxford English Dictionary back in 2006.
But what will the next 25 years bring for the company? And will its former motto “don’t be evil” still ring true?
Privacy and competition
Although Google has perhaps avoided the same level of scrutiny as Facebook when it comes to user privacy, as concerns over user data sharing and privacy continue to grow. Just this month, the company faced backlash after it emerged that recordings from Google Assistants were being transcribed by human employees.
Despite winning a landmark right-to-be-forgotten case in the EU Court of Justice, the next 21 years may see the company increasingly held to account by both privacy and antitrust laws.
Eoin O’Neill, CTO & Global Head of SEO at Tug said:
“It has certainly been a bumpy ride for Google over the past 10 years, but it seems that it is starting to come to the end of its more costly interventions from the EU, and the company appears to take privacy very seriously. However, as consumers become more aware of digital privacy concerns, it may become harder for Google to exploit revenue streams from the more invasive advertising models, such as retargeting.”
Paul Bischoff, privacy advocate at Comparitech.com believes that the possibility of GDPR-style regulations spreading to the rest of the world could bring with it increasing scrutiny for Google:
“In regards to privacy and anti-trust, I think Google will still to be on the vanguard of gathering personal information for some time, so it will continue to wrangle with regulators. Most of Google’s biggest legal challenges have been in Europe and other countries, but I think we’ll start seeing GDPR-style regulation spread across the US, too. This could have a major impact on Google’s ad revenue. Google has been able to avoid a lot of scrutiny because it’s suffered relatively few severe data breaches compared to, say, Facebook, but one major breach could turn public sentiment against it. 21 years is a long time to go without a breach.”
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Internet of Things
With Google Home and Google Assistant now major players in the increasingly crowded voice assistant market, with an estimated 120m Google Home devices sold, this seems like an area the company will continue to invest in over the next two decades.
Igor Stark, Head of AI & Discoverability at Voiceworks believes that the company has already signalled investment in an even more personalised service, which may help it stand out from the crowd:
“The significance of this change is that by replacing voice search feature with Google Assistant, Google is signalling a major shift towards AI in all forms of search. While it is too soon to say exactly how this will play out, what can be assumed is that individual search results will become more personalised, to the point where one person’s search will look very different from another person’s search, based on what Google’s AI has learned about them. The end result will be a next level of personalisation within search and a completely new search experience. This could happen as soon as next year.”
With the recent announcement that Google has reached “quantum supremacy”, with Google researchers solving a problem using a quantum computer, it comes as no surprise that the company is investing heavily in cutting edge technology.
With driverless car company Waymo, owned by parent company Alphabet, now permitted to transport passengers using its driverless taxis in California, the company has set its sights on being a key player in the driverless car market.
John Warner, Senior Marketing Executive here at Click Consult believes that this signifies Google becoming even more integral to everyday life:
“The next 21 years will see the individual becoming a hub for the technology in their lives – and this will be powered by our digital assistants. Google will be connected to our cars, our homes and our health, both integrated into and integrating us with our surroundings. In short: our experience of the world will be tailored by our devices, for good or ill, and Google – unless we see the most substantial anti-trust ruling in history – will be central to that.”
Steve Sharp, founder and company director of Fat Cow Media believes that Google could also move into the e-commerce sphere:
“With the future of online experience moving into virtual and augmented reality, I believe there’s more to come from Google in that space. I would also like to see them take on Amazon for e-commerce real estate, but whether that can be a reality or not is yet to be seen.”
However, despite having numerous products in its portfolio, it is possible that Google could take a step back from the public eye, focusing instead on its behind-the-scenes products. O’Neill believes that cloud computing could be key to this.
Eoin O’Neill, CTO & Global Head of SEO at Tug:
“There is a clear push within Google to develop and expand its Google Cloud Platform. This move to become almost a utility service for digital operations will continue to increase the power and influence of the company. This could mean that in the future, far more of Google’s revenue and activity will be unseen.
“There are more obvious areas that the company is likely to expand into, such as driverless cars, but whenever the company has tried to move into consumer products, it has had to work far harder to create market share compared to its dominance within search and cloud computing.”