AdSense is officially ten years old! A little more than 10 years ago, I was part of the engineering team of five or six people that put together our initial AdSense product. Two of my officemates had developed a machine learning system that could determine very fine-grained topics from arbitrary pieces of content (developed with some small amounts of systems-building advice from me). We took that system and married it with a crawling system and our advertising system, to match up ads and page contents by fine-grained topics and AdSense was born. This project was great fun because we went from idea to launch in about 6 weeks, launching initially on message posts on Google Groups, and then on a few partners before a broader launch a few months later. Our first external partner was http://www.howstuffworks.com
. We liked that site because it had lots of content on a broad range of topics and we could easily see what sorts of things worked well and which things did not.
One of my favorite aspects of the project was that it made it possible for publishers with content on very niche, specialized topics (e.g. knitting, snorkeling, deck repair, etc.) to get relevant, targeted ads to support that content. Most other ads systems at the time only allowed fairly broad targeting (e.g. you could get "Sports" ads on your site about snorkeling in Maui, but not lots of ads about snorkeling in Maui). Getting fine-grained relevant ads was better for publishers, users, and advertisers.
(One thing I often see in news articles about the history of AdSense is the claim that it used the technology we acquired from Google's purchase of Applied Semantics. In truth the system used our own in-house technology, and we were already running our ads on public sites like HowStuffWorks and Google Groups in March, 2003, and the Applied Semantics acquisition happened in April, 2003).+Noam Shazeer +Georges Harik +Susan Wojcicki +Darrell Anderson +Claire Cui +Alexander Carobus