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Google is a tech giant now, but it’s been a survivalist since it started

Today it may appear that Google’s energy and success have been inevitable — because of Larry Page and Sergey Brin cracking the search code — but the fact is fairly totally different. Google was born in a state of battle within the early 2000s, topic to the whims of Microsoft, a tech goliath whose Internet Explorer browser was on 90 p.c of all computer systems on the time and primarily managed most individuals’s entry to Google’s search engine. And regardless that Google gained that battle, it’s confronted new ones ever since.

In the second episode of Land of the Giants: The Google Empire — our new seven-part podcast concerning the firm’s ascent to a international behemoth — we look at how Google, which is presently being sued by the Department of Justice and a number of other state attorneys common over antitrust points, has needed to battle for survival all through its existence.

Google reached its present heights solely by adopting a survivalist mentality — first clawing its method to sustained relevance, after which finally to dominance in areas like search and cellular working programs. The firm’s early concern of failure nonetheless appears seen in a lot of its present choices, comparable to when it pays opponents (like Apple) to make it their working system’s default search engine, or when it fills its search outcomes with its personal merchandise.

Google’s survivalist story begins at a time when Internet Explorer reigned supreme and Microsoft may have simply displaced Google as its browser’s default search choice. Back then, you didn’t sort search queries in your browser’s handle bar. To search with Google, you’d both sort www.google.com within the handle bar or hit the browser’s “search” button (which took you to Google’s webpage). Microsoft, if it so desired, may construct its personal search engine and make that the default, or it may allow search within the handle bar with one thing apart from Google. If Microsoft had accomplished one thing like that, it doubtless would have been the top of Google. So Google knew it wanted a workaround.

That workaround was Google’s Toolbar, a browser extension that added a Google search bar proper underneath the browser’s handle bar. A couple of years after Google launched it, a whole bunch of hundreds of thousands of individuals have been utilizing Toolbar, thanks largely to Google signing distribution offers with corporations like Adobe to place it of their set up packages, and likewise its ease of use. Google, for a second, felt like it solved its drawback.

But as Google started creating different web-based packages that will turn out to be core merchandise, like Gmail, Docs, and Calendar, the notion of permitting one other firm — particularly a competitor like Microsoft — to regulate folks’s expertise of the online made Google uneasy. Google noticed Microsoft creating its personal search engine, first referred to as Live Search after which referred to as Bing, and determined it couldn’t depend on its Toolbar alone to encourage folks to make use of Google search over opponents. The firm wanted its personal browser. That’s what led it to create Chrome.

Google Chrome took off as a result of it was quick, easy, and straightforward to make use of, and likewise as a result of Google used related distribution offers from Toolbar to push it out to the plenty. But whereas Chrome was a smashing success — it’s now the dominant desktop browser on the planet — it supplied solely momentary aid. Because simply as Chrome established itself on desktop, the cellular revolution took off, leaving Google uncovered but once more in a new space.

Google didn’t need one other firm — whether or not it was Microsoft or Apple — controlling how folks accessed the online and its merchandise from their telephones and different handheld gadgets. It additionally knew it would profit from some type of standardization of the cellular net. And that grew to become the muse for Android, the cellular working system it acquired in 2005 and developed inside its firm. Today, Android powers virtually 85 p.c of the world’s telephones, that means Google is the pathway to the online for most individuals, not merely a website the place you go to seek out stuff.

Without Android and Chrome, Google, “would have been relegated to probably irrelevance,” Brian Rakowski, a Google VP of product administration who works on each Chrome and Google’s cellular efforts informed us. “We probably would have been either stamped out or a very, very tiny, probably becoming irrelevant company if we weren’t able to.”

All these battles received Google, as soon as a scrappy startup making an attempt to not get crushed by Microsoft, to the place it is at present — on the prime of the tech world, but additionally dealing with allegations that it’s grown too massive and is illegally stifling competitors.

For extra tales about Google’s unbelievable rise, masking all the pieces from the cell phone wars to the corporate’s inner tensions to its present antitrust battles, subscribe now to Land of the Giants: The Google Empire. And please inform us what you assume: We’re on Twitter at @kantrowitz and @shiringhaffary.

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