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Sunday, February 28, 2010

The World is Mine - Can you imagine the world without Google?

From a simple search engine, Google moved on to e-mail, mapping, web browser and now, mobile phones. Is Google set for world dominion, asks Ian Vella. 

 Published on the Sunday Times (TechSunday) 28th February 2010


Almost a decade-and-a-half ago, two Stanford PhD students set up Google as part of a research project. Since then, it has become one of the world's most powerful ICT companies, thanks to its crown jewel, the Google Search Engine. The latter changed the way we search for information, the way we study, and the way news is delivered to us. Then in 2000, Google introduced simple text advertisements alongside search results - the huge profits helped the company's top executives realise what real potential Google held. 

Four years later the company went public and started offering its shares at $85 each. In 2010 the stock is trading at around $630. Eventually, Google not only became the world's most utilised internet search engine but also started expanding its operations to offer other online services like Gmail and Google-Docs. This move put them in direct competition with other 1CT giants, especially Microsoft. Despite its widespread use, Google is harshly criticised by privacy advocates. Most of the attacks are directed against the fact that Google records unique IP addresses, the daily 200 million search queries from around the world, and all e-mails passing through its network.

This information is stored on Google's servers for an undefined period of time. Google defends this approach by stating that such information is later analysed in order to improve user experience. Google also insists that at no point does it sort its data based on a particular individual use of its services. This may put some minds at rest, that although it is theoretically possible for Google to see what you have been searching for in the last years and what e-mails you received, the Big G - the name many privacy activists use to refer to Google, with an obvious Orwellian reference - wouldn't do so. 


Google's Earth and Street View projects, which allow anyone access to satellite photos and sharp views of various streets, were also criticised as these offer an unprecedented way to spy on any private citizen.


The service has been harshly condemned and has even been allegedly used by terrorists to plan attacks in various parts of the world. Eventually, Google announced that it would start blurring faces on the Street View application. Various military installations and other sensitive locations on Google Earth have also been hazed out. Google has been involved in several censorship cases, such as deleting hatred sites from its search results. However, at the same time, Google is known to cooperate with the Chinese government to censor controversial links which counter the regime's imposed doctrine. 

Such action has led various privacy activists to protest against Google's disregard towards freedom of expression. The latest news from the Google-China front is that Google is threatening to end censorship in China following a cyber attack which it believes was aimed at gathering information on Chinese human rights activists. Google's arch enemies, Microsoft and Yahoo, have been playing cat and mouse for the last 10 years, but this reached epic proportions in recent years. When Google launched the Chrome browser, it was to directly compete with Microsoft's Internet Explorer. However, Chrome only managed to attract a four per cent market share. In retaliation, Microsoft launched the Bing search engine - however, Bing didn't manage to threaten Google's top position. Then in August 2009, Microsoft and Yahoo announced a deal whereby they would collaborate on search technology - nowadays, Yahoo is powered by Microsoft's Bing. Still, the Bing search engine is currently powering only 10 per cent of the online search requests worldwide. Google played a major role in globalisation by helping regional communities link socially and economically to a globe-spanning network. Now that the globalisation thrust has reached most of its aims, Google's future Plans have been unveiled - the giant technology company is now aiming at infiltrating the international mobile phone market. Earlier this year, Google unveiled the Nexus One, a new mobile phone that runs on Google's own Android operating system. 

The Nexus One features the ability to transcribe voice to text and offers the industry's fastest web browsing experience as well as more than 18,000 applications. The Nexus One is expected to reach Malta this spring when it will be launched in tandem throughout Europe and is set to compete directly with Apple's iPhone. Sergey Brin, one of Google's co-founders, recently said, "Some say Google is God. Others say it is Satan. But if you think Google is too powerful, remember that with search engines, unlike other companies, all it takes is a single click to shift to one of our competitors." Whether you choose to remain a faithful Google user or opt to look elsewhere, there is no denying that Google is here to stay. And even if we would rather not use any of its services, our lives will still be affected by Google. What started out in 1996 as a simple experiment has now become a major revolution. 


Original Article Newspaper Scan:

http://files.ianvella.com/theworldismine.jpg



Copyright notice : This article was written by Ian Vella and published on the Tech-Sunday published on the Sunday Times of Malta.  Copyright may be shared between the mentioned people and entities.  Please do not republish without permission.



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