Whither Google As It Turns Ten?

It wasn't long ago that we weren't able to "Google" people, places and things.

But, observes CBS News Science and Technology Correspondent Daniel Sieberg, in just ten years, Google has grown exponentially from garage startup to Web juggernaut -- and a verb as well as a noun!

As Google marks its tenth anniversary this weekend, it's become "part of culture, much like Xerox," points out John Battelle, who wrote a best-seller about the rise of Google called "The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture."

He notes that the verb "google" quickly became synonymous with speedy learning on virtually every subject.

"Nearly anything and everything to get smart on any topic exists on the Web," says Battelle, "and Google does a good job of organizing it."

"Good," remarks Sieberg, "may be an understatement." These days, more people use Google than all other search engines combined.

Of course, that hasn't always been that way.

"Google wasn't first," says Sieberg. "They were just the best."

Remember Lycos? AltaVista?

Yahoo once held the mantle for search, but even with its catchy name and expensive advertising, Google was able to make its way into the mainstream, mostly by word-of-mouth, and without airing a single commercial, Sieberg says.

In January 2005, Google co-founder Sergey Brin told the CBS News broadcast 60 Minutes, "We just let a few of our friends know about it so they would go to that Web site -- search engine -- and try it out, and people started to use it."

Brin and Google's other co-founder, Larry Page, started the company as Stanford grad students in a garage.

They now run the it from what's called "the Google-plex," in Mountain View, Calif.

Workers enjoy an array of not-so-typical perks, such as billiards, a pool, volleyball court, and much more.

V-P of People Operations Laszlo Bock says, "They're certainly working. But, they're also having a lot of fun. One of the things we believe is that you want to make an environment that's efficient for people so that, in their personal lives, they can live and enjoy and have a great time and, when they're working, they can focus on getting their work done."

And plenty of folks would like to try -- Google gets some 7,000 job applications -- a day.

All that inspiration within the company, says Sieberg, has led Google to countless projects beyond just search -- "not that that's always a good thing."

Battelle says concerns may be reflected in Google's stock price, which went from $85 when it went public in August 2004 to a high of almost $715 last year, then down to its current price of about $465 dollars.

"The big question," says Battelle, "is, can they choose the right directions? Can they let go of the things that perhaps they aren't very good at doing and just focus on three, four, five projects that, taken together, make for a cohesive company that can win in every market it's in?"

In addition to the fluctuating stock price, Sieberg says, Google's had some ups and downs with public opinion, mostly attributed to privacy concerns over what happens to all that search info.

So, Sieberg concludes, in some ways, Google is still finding its way -- at 10 years old.
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