- President Clinton was acquitted in his perjury trial relating to the Monica Lewinsky affair
- The Columbine tragedy in Colorado happened
- JFK, Jr.'s plane crashed of the coast of Martha's Vineyard
- Pokemon Fever gripped the nation's kids and emptied their parents' wallets
- The New York Yankees (YET AGAIN) won another World Series (Boooooo!)
- We couldn't avoid the likes of the Backstreet Boys, N*Sync, O-Town, 98 Degrees, etc. on our radio dial
1999 was also the year that two PhD candidates from Stanford University were able to get some financial backing and push their little start-up into the world of technical legitimacy by moving from a garage in Menlo Park to some office space in Palo Alto, California. You may have heard of their company - it's called "Google".
Now, fast forward to 2010 and think about what the company has accomplished in such a short period of time during its metamorphosis. Not only have they become pretty much the undisputed king of providing Internet users a way to find little granules of information at the farthest reaches of the Internet, they also have a verb to go with it - it's called "Googling". This type of recognition and branding is traditionally an honor that in the past was reserved for companies that had a multi-decade industry dominance that was preceded by a ridiculously long build up time to get there - Xerox and Kleenex are the two that come to mind. "Hand me a Kleenex then go make a Xerox of this letter I wrote," is a VERY plausible thing to say...
Google wriggled into that level of our collective mind-share in 10 years.
How did they accomplish it? Quite simply, they adopted a philosophy to creating, implementing, and growing tech company in a way many people (nerds like myself) have a tendency to not consider:
It's ALL about the information - technology is just an enabler.
By sticking to this mantra, the company was able to focus on harvesting information then surrounding it with a myriad uses that turned it into a marketable commodity. Sure, you have to invent technology to make that kind of business model work, but at the end of the day it was never about how slick their systems looked or how refined it was, because the Internet's information was the new gold they were mining. Don't believe me? Clickhere for a picture of their first production system or here to see what their first landing page looked like - DEFINITELY not something a slick-backed hair, cuff link-wearing, fast talking sales person could pawn to a potential customer.
But, their model worked - and worked VERY VERY well. The $27 billion dollars the company raised five years ago in its stock IPO is now estimated to be worth $140 billion...approximately 20% growth every year (yes, even during the "Great Recession!" of 2008).
So, with the company's legitimacy and success clearly established, how do we interpret the working ends we are exposed to as users and benefactors of Google's ever growing product line? After all, the Seattle coffee crowd (ahem, Microsoft) is threatened by them for their Chrome, GMail, and Google Docs offerings and the normally "crunchy granola", avant-garde snobberies in Cupertino (hint - rhymes with "Bapple") are certainly skittish about Google's Nexus One and the Android mobile operating system. Sure - neither company will completely commit to what I'm declaring here, but we all know the truth behind the curtain...
And that, ultimately, is where their plans for competing with Google will continue to be misguided and somewhat ineffective. Sure, Microsoft will eventually put some spit and polish on the "online" version of their Office suite and Apple will probably release a "gorgeous" (their favorite descriptor) iTablet to thunderous, applauding throngs of zealots, but they will still miss the point that at the end of the day, Google only cares about the end result of those types of products - the information they produce and how they can harvest it for gold. Microsoft and Apple's future competitive behavior will be similar to trying to fight a fire by worrying about producing the best possible fire truck...to them it's about the fire and not how you fight it.
And that fire grows exponentially every year. Viva Google - you put the "Information" in "Information Age".