Google has been a busy bee this week in the light of the Spring Equinox. The super giant firm has announced the retirement of its web feed application – Google Reader. As well as the axing of the RSS feed reader the company also confirmed it would be working towards and releasing a new note taking application – Google Keep. Rumours and suggestions from recent conferences had suggested Google would be porting their latest and high successful Google Now service to the iPhone along with their Google search app; yet the companies CEO Eric Schmidt denied this in an interview. Google has acquired several smaller firms in recent years – including Motorola Mobility, Meebo and others. But has Google’s mass domination in the internet and cyber world stiffeled internet creativity and innovation? Has the company become a figure of authority that can sometimes seem rather overpowering? Well this could be possible.
Google was began in 1994 under PhD students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, again like any other start up they had intended the use of their search engine to be a minor university trial. They established a search engine to compete with current engines at the time, which they believed were ineffective and sluggish. These old engines ranked the results in order of how frequently the search term appeared on the page – Page and Brin theorised about a new method of search – A Google search. Originally named “BackRub” the engine would look at more than the search terms – but by looking at the backlinks and relationships between pages be able to identify the most relevant result for the user. Eventually the name was changed to Google, as a misspelling of the word ‘googol’ – the number one followed by a hundred zeros – this was representational of the fact Google would be a large source of information for people and users world wide. Prior to public launch the services was hosted under the address of Stanford University, google.stanford.edu. But later a domain for Google would be registered and accepted in September 1997, and the company became incorporated in 1998. This was the birth of Google.
In May 2011 Google surpassed 1 billion unique monthly visitors. The company has now substantially grown beyond the comprehension of the early visitors and further. Investment of $100,000 was made by Andy Bechtolsheim, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, given before Google was even incorporated. Page and Brin realised the time required to run a global search engine would clash slightly with a full time university course and tried to sell the the company for $1 million to George Bell, unsuccessfully. Several years later in ’99 $25 million funding investment from major investors were announced. Google’s initial public offering took place five years later in August 2004 and an agreement between Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt meant they would work at Google for 20 years till 2024. The company offered 19,605,052 shares at a price of $85 per share, and this sale of $1.67 billion shares later gave them a market capitalisation of more than $23 billion. Over 271 million of the shares reminds unsold and belonging to Google – this made many of the early employees millionaires on paper.
Google has been seen as a force of good on the Internet – and today is seen as an innovator of web standards as well as technological development. But the fact its – Google has changed. The corporate cyber giant that has formed in Google’s place has become an money making industrial workhouse. Google had started as a company that intended to improve the methods of internet searching and general user experiences online. However their business venture hand market flotation has led them to move their focus from creation, innovation to money making and market share. Of course this is the basis of any successful company – to make money. Nevertheless Google is a force of great enormity online and the choices they make effect the rest of the internet. Google has made acquisitions of hundreds smaller companies – most notably the likes of Motorola and YouTube. Motorola had up till the acquisition been a main manufacturer of Android products and heavily relied on Google’s services. Google acquired the company in 2012 and has since focused on Android highly in its proposed business models. Google is absorbing most of the internet and following companies – their dominance has led to a stagnation in new start ups (as no one would dare face the brute force of Google). They have altered their ethos as a company that had gone from as start up innovating to improve web standards to a company that thrives on market share – yet admittedly still innovates.
Open web standards are a heart of Google’s products, therefore it seems odd for them to be abandoning the service, Google Reader. The content and feed organiser had been based on the openly used RSS technology now faces closure in a months time. Google has a rather awkward relationship with open standards, products like Chrome and online services are beacons for open web standards – yet their prime product Android, although containing a open policy directed at development, is controlled by Google API’s and now Google moves even closer to controlling the overall Android experience. However other alternatives to RSS are appearing, the likes of Twitter and Atom feeds allow users to access the latest developments in the world instantly. But Android is still not as open as Google wishes us to believe, yet they are doing better than their competitors.
Google offers a wide variety of services, products and features – their dominance in the market can have a detrimental effect on smaller companies yet the pressure they can impose forces themselves and others to continue to innovate. Google’s decision to axe Google Reader is a tactical one. It was a small niche product, offering a service to a selected user base. It was a dying product that Google cleared from its virtual shelf to make way for new products. Today some may claim that journalism is a fading trade – I would argue otherwise. The widespread adoption of social media and networking sites such a Twitter are the new Reuters of the modern world. Big news organisations are being relied on less in the internet world – therefore the need to constantly check your RSS feed for updates is no longer required. Previously large companies would dominate media distribution but now everyone posses the power to distribute and control our local media. Google has seen this as an opportunity to remove an unnecessary product – and in its place concentrate resources on newly unveiled Google Keep.
The internet is changing – Google is in limbo. The online world we live in is slowly becoming controlled more and more by the average user, Twitter, Facebook and social media is providing everyone with a voice. And the information available to us allow removes all the barriers of society. Google has shown it can move forward with the removal of Google Reader – so I believe people should be thankful for it’s demise; yet they still move further towards a closed and isolated ecosystem with the likes of Android. In a few years time Google will have to make a decision – to remain open or shut the gate to all of the open community – and on that day, we could see the end of the Google we all know and love.