It feels like just yesterday my wife, two kids and I packed all our belongings, sold our house in New Jersey, and made the long trip to California. It was almost 14 years ago, and I was on my way to join Google’s Search team.
One of the more memorable moments during the years that followed was the company’s IPO, where Larry and Sergey introduced their vision to the world. I can’t believe that was 10 years ago tomorrow. Their founders’ letter [http://goo.gl/t7Ylc7
] highlighted Google’s long-term focus: “Our business environment changes rapidly and needs long term investment. We will not hesitate to place major bets on promising new opportunities.”
Since 2004, Google has of course made a range of big bets: YouTube, Android, Chrome, Google Maps….and recently, many of the amazing long-term projects Google[x] is pursuing.
But the heart of Google is still search. And in the decade since our IPO, Google has made big bets on a range of hugely important areas in search that make today’s Google so much better than the 2004 version (see our homepage from back then below). Larry has described the perfect search engine as understanding exactly what you mean and giving you back exactly what you want. We’ve made a lot of progress on delivering you the right answers, faster. But we know that we have a long way to go -- it’s just the beginning.
I thought it might be fun to share the 10 biggest Google search milestones since 2004 that really stand out in my mind:1. Autocomplete:
We built a way for Google to predict the most likely useful words and phrases as you type, and even load search results instantly—so you can quickly get to that perfect recipe for “silky gingered zucchini soup” (even if you can’t remember the dish’s whole name). Typing out a whole phrase feels archaic.2. Translations:
Google Translate was barely a beta product ten years ago. Today people use it in 80 languages to do over a billion translations a day. Just tell Google to “translate 10 years into German” and see this magic in action.3. Directions and traffic:
Search used to be just about webpages, but our amazing Maps team made it possible to search the real world too. Now you can ask, “How far is it to Santa Cruz?” and with one tap you can open walking, biking, public transit, or driving directions—with the fastest route so you avoid traffic.4. Universal search:
Sometimes the best answer isn’t just text—if you’re asking about JFK’s “Moon Speech,” you probably want to watch John F. Kennedy deliver his famous speech. We’ve made that possible, blending different types of results so you get the most relevant info, no matter the format.5. Mobile and new screens:
No matter what device or platform you may be on, whether it’s a tablet or a smartphone (or even a watch!), you need information and answers. So we’ve adapted Search to all these new devices. This includes redesigning our mobile products to help those who weren’t born with the fastest typing thumbs! 6. Voice search:
Gone are the days of typing queries as clunky keywords—you can now ask questions by voice in the Google Search app. Instead of typing [weather chicago], just say “Ok Google, will I need an umbrella tomorrow?” We’ve invested years of research into speech recognition and natural language understanding, and voice search works in 38 languages today.7. Actions:
With the Google Search app you can quickly text, email or call someone without digging and typing. Just say: “Ok Google, send an email to Jason: do you guys want to go to the beach with us for a picnic this Saturday?” You can even set sophisticated reminders like “Remind me to pick up coffee filters next time I’m at Target,” and Google will buzz your phone when you get to any Target.8. The Knowledge Graph:
The world is made of real things, not just text strings. So we built the Knowledge Graph to show how things are connected—ask “How tall do you have to be to ride the Cyclone?” or “Who’s in the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy?”, and then click to explore across the web. 9. Info just for you:
If you’ve got a flight reservation saved in your Gmail, you can ask the Google Search app, “What gate does my flight leave from?” and get the answer directly. You can also ask about shipments ("Where's my package?") or for appointments (“When do I have yoga?”). All this is private of course, visible just to you. 10. Answers before you have to ask:
If you have the Google Search app on your phone, you'll get automatic help with everyday tasks. Google can automatically show you your plane, bus, and train reservations right when you need them; warnings when traffic is bad to your next appointment; reminders of bills coming due; a best guess at the last spot you parked; and much more.
And all that is just a sample of the work we’ve done since 2004. We made more than 890 improvements to Google Search last year alone, and we’re cranking away at new features and the next generation of big bets all the time. We've come a long way in 10 years -- on Google and so many other general and specialized search apps, it's now so much better than just the 10 blue links of years past. In 2024, the Google of 2014 will seem ancient, and the Google of 2004 prehistoric.