Google LLC is an American multinational technology company that specializes in Internet-related services and products, which include online advertising technologies, search engine, cloud computing, software, and hardware. Google was founded in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin while they were Ph.D. students at Stanford University, California. Together, they own about 14 percent of its shares and control 56 percent of the stockholder voting power through supervoting stock. They incorporated Google as a privately held company on September 4, 1998. An initial public offering (IPO) took place on August 19, 2004, and Google moved to its new headquarters in Mountain View, California, nicknamed the Googleplex. In August 2015, Google announced plans to reorganize its various interests as a conglomerate called Alphabet Inc. Google, Alphabet’s leading subsidiary, will continue to be the umbrella company for Alphabet’s Internet interests. Upon completion of the restructure, Sundar Pichai was appointed CEO of Google, replacing Larry Page, who became the CEO of Alphabet.
The company’s rapid growth since incorporation has triggered a chain of products, acquisitions, and partnerships beyond Google’s core search engine (Google Search). It offers services designed for work and productivity (Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides), email (Gmail/Inbox), scheduling and time management (Google Calendar), cloud storage (Google Drive), social networking (Google+), instant messaging and video chat (Google Allo/Duo/Hangouts), language translation (Google Translate), mapping and turn-by-turn navigation (Google Maps/Waze/Earth/Street View), video sharing (YouTube), note-taking (Google Keep), and photo organizing and editing (Google Photos). The company leads the development of the Android mobile operating system, the Google Chrome web browser, and Chrome OS, a lightweight operating system based on the Chrome browser. Google has moved increasingly into hardware; from 2010 to 2015, it partnered with major electronics manufacturers in the production of its Nexus devices, and in October 2016, it released multiple hardware products (including the Google Pixel smartphone, Home smart speaker, Wifi mesh wireless router, and Daydream View virtual reality headset). The new hardware chief, Rick Osterloh, stated: “a lot of the innovation that we want to do now ends up requiring controlling the end-to-end user experience”. Google has also experimented with becoming an Internet carrier. In February 2010, it announced Google Fiber, a fiber-optic infrastructure that was installed in Kansas City; in April 2015, it launched Project Fi in the United States, combining Wi-Fi and cellular networks from different providers; and in 2016, it announced the Google Station initiative to make public Wi-Fi available around the world, with initial deployment in India.
Alexa, a company that monitors commercial web traffic, lists Google.com as the most visited website in the world. Several other Google services also figure in the top 100 most visited websites, including YouTube and Blogger. Google is the most valuable brand in the world as of 2017, but has received significant criticism involving issues such as privacy concerns, tax avoidance, antitrust, censorship, and search neutrality. Google’s mission statement, from the outset, was “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”, and its unofficial slogan was “Don’t be evil”. In October 2015, the motto was replaced in the Alphabet corporate code of conduct by the phrase “Do the right thing”, while the original one was retained in the code of conduct of Google. Around May 2018, the slogan was silently removed from the code’s clauses, leaving only one generic reference in its last paragraph.
Google’s market dominance has led to prominent media coverage, including criticism of the company over issues such as aggressive tax avoidance, search neutrality, copyright, censorship of search results and content, and privacy. Other criticisms include alleged misuse and manipulation of search results, its use of others’ intellectual property, concerns that its compilation of data may violate people’s privacy, and the energy consumption of its servers, as well as concerns over traditional business issues such as monopoly, restraint of trade, anti-competitive practices, and patent infringement.
Google adhered to the Internet censorship policies of China, enforced by means of filters colloquially known as “The Great Firewall of China”. The Intercept reported in August 2018 that “Google is planning to launch a censored version of its search engine in China that will blacklist websites and search terms about human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest”.
Google’s mission statement, from the outset, was “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”, and its unofficial slogan is “Don’t be evil”. In October 2015, a related motto was adopted in the Alphabet corporate code of conduct by the phrase: “Do the right thing”. The original motto was retained in the code of conduct of Google, now a subsidiary of Alphabet.
Google’s commitment to such robust idealism has been increasingly called into doubt due to a number of the firm’s actions and behaviors which appear to contradict this,
Following media reports about PRISM, NSA’s massive electronic surveillance program, in June 2013, several technology companies were identified as participants, including Google. According to leaks of said program, Google joined the PRISM program in 2009.
On August 8, 2017, Google fired employee James Damore after he distributed a memo throughout the company which argued that “Google’s ideological echo chamber” and bias clouded their thinking about diversity and inclusion, and that it is also biological factors, not discrimination alone, that cause the average woman to be less interested than men in technical positions. Google CEO Sundar Pichai accused Damore in violating company policy by “advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace”, and he was fired on the same day. New York Times columnist David Brooks argued Pichai had mishandled the case, and called for his resignation.
Reportedly, Google’s influenced New America think tank to expell their Open Markets research group, after the group has criticized Google monopolistic power and supported the EU $2.7B fine of Google.
Google was working with the United States Department of Defense on drone software called “Project Maven” that could be used to improve the accuracy of drone strikes. Thousands of Google employees, including senior engineers, have signed a letter urging Google CEO Sundar Pichai to end a controversial contract with the Pentagon.
In 2017, David Elliot and Chris Gillespie argued before the Ninth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals that “google” had suffered genericide. The controversy began in 2012 when Gillespie acquired 763 domain names containing the word “google.” Google promptly filed a complaint with the National Arbitration Forum (NAF). Elliot then filed a petition for canceling the Google trademark. Ultimately, the court ruled in favor of Google because Elliot failed to show a preponderance of evidence showing the genericide of “google.”