Thursday, December 19, 2019

Facts About Google / Alphabet

The original name of Google was Backrub. They called it that because the algorithm ranked pages based on how many "backlinks" a page had.

The genealogy of the Google patent is interesting.  It refers to another patent owned by Dow Jones that was very similar to the Google patent and was developed by a guy named Robin Li when he worked for a company owned by Dow Jones.  Both patents used similar ideas of ranking a page not necessarily by using the text on the page but also by counting how many links referenced the page.  Dow Jones wasn't really sure what to do with the patent (called RankDex) so Robin Li left the company and went to China. While there he licensed the patent from Dow Jones for almost nothing and started (and is still CEO of) a little company called Baidu.  It's interesting that the same basic idea inspired both Google and Baidu.

The Google algorithm is called PageRank.  You would think it was named after its ability to rank pages but Google claims it is named after Larry Page.  But that's not the interesting thing.  The interesting thing is that Stanford holds the patent.  They were given 1.8mm shares which they sold in 2005 for $336 million.  Basically, colleges should encourage the actual developers of their patents to start companies.  It pays off.

The PageRank algorithm can not only rank pages for search engines but the exact same algorithm can be used to determine which species are about to go extinct.  This paper describes it in detail.  But basically, a "backlink" is similar to species that another species can eat to survive.  The more "backlinks" in this sense that a species has, the more likely it is to NOT go extinct. Interesting.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin are the two richest guys in the country to not make any political contributions.  The twenty or so billionaires richer than them all make political contributions. They don't want to get anyone upset. However, Google spent more on lobbying last year than Yahoo, Facebook, and Apple combined.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin originally wanted to be academics.  They didn't want to build a business.  They developed their initial search engine and then tried to shop it around. They were actually willing to sell it for $1 million in 1997.  They went all over Silicon Valley to try and sell their search engine.  They went to Yahoo, who turned them down.  Later, in 2002, Yahoo tried to buy them for $3 billion but at that point, Google turned them down. Now Google is worth $150 billion.

The "I am Feeling Lucky" button probably costs Google about $110 million a year.  When you click on that button it just takes you to the top search result.  In other words, you skip all the ads that Google makes money on.  So why don't they just take that button off? Focus groups apparently show that people feel more comfortable with the button on there.



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