Posted by: nickgerlich | September 27, 2007

Number 9

In 1968 the Beatles released their self-titled LP (known more commonly as the White Album). It was very avante garde in many aspects, and is often considered to be among the first recordings to employ sampling. The track Revolution #9 is memorable in that contains the eerily repetitive “Number 9…Number 9…Number 9” spoken in a male voice. Backward-masking fans all know that, if you spin the LP the other direction, a spooky message emerges that fueled the “Paul is dead” rumor.

Google #9While I doubt the folks at Google are busy playing records backwards today, I have a hunch more than a few people are focusing on that number 9. Why? Because today is Google’s 9th birthday.

It’s hard to believe life without Google. Although the actual search engine was created in 1997 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin (while enrolled as doctoral students at Stanford), it was not until a year later that Google was launched (in a garage, no less). The actual date is uncertain, but for the last few years, the 27th has been used as the unofficial official birthdate.

The search engine graveyard is littered with tombstones etched with dead or nearly-dead sites that sank in the wake of Google. Alta Vista, Lycos, Overture, AllTheWeb, Magellan, WebCrawler, and Excite are but a few of the many who couldn’t match the mighty power of Google’s page ranking system.

Today, Google is cash-rich following an IPO and stock run-up that topped $500 per share. Flush with cash, Google has been steadily gobbling up a variety of web service providers that fit under the broad umbrella of its master plan. Writely has become Google Docs; Blogger has become Google Blogspot.

Google has changed the way we live, and has become a verb in the English language. There is little we cannot do at Google, be it searching for obscure out-of-print books, scholarly research articles, web links, maps, and satellite imagery, or setting up databases, collaborative writing portals, and blogging sites. The next edition of Roget’s Thesaurus ought to have a listing for “ubiquitous:” see Google.

Consider also how Google has changed the way we think. Instead of running to a card catalog subject index, we head online. And we have all become more proficient in how we frame our search queries. In other words, we have started to think like a search engine, focusing on key words we think are most likely to be in the documents that we desire. Furthermore, web designers and content writers think the opposite direction, trying to load their pages with the terms they think people are most likely to search on.

Can Google be beaten? Sure. So can Wal-Mart. No company is perfect, and all the geeks in the Googleplex are as vulnerable as the next guy. The folks at ChaCha think they have the model for a better search engine. Of course, they don’t have billions lying around to promote it, either. I guess we’ll see.

Paul wasn’t dead, and Google isn’t anywhere near. If anything, they’re still running the revolution. Yahoo!

Dr “Search Me” Gerlich

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