Google has kicked off the week by posting a six-minute video clip that gives a fast-paced overview of its history as a search company, from its earliest days of Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s PageRank algorithm to its more recent feature launches, like Google Instant. The video features interviews from key members who have worked on Google Search, including Google Fellows Ben Gomes and Amit Singhal, and Google VP Marissa Mayer, who led Search for a decade before taking the helm of Google’s local products.
The video revolves around Google’s mission to surface the information people are looking for as quickly as possible, but the most interesting bits focus on the problems and stumbles that Google has had along the way.
One anecdote centers on the attacks of September 11: in the wake of the attacks, many people were searching for ‘New York Twin Towers’ and related queries as they attempted to get the latest news — only to find that Google’s index didn’t have any relevant news stories because it was weeks old (Danny Sullivan has written more about this failure). Google’s quick-fix was to post links to relevant news articles on its homepage, and its stumble eventually led to the launch of Google News.
Another interesting anecdote: when Google initially began incorporating image results alongside text results for Universal Search, it realized that it couldn’t really compare the relevance of an image to that of a text article. So, rather than try to rank the images directly against web sites, Google just stuck the images in widgets at the top, middle, or bottom of the page.
The video is a followup to a clip Google released in August that explores how it tweaks its algorithms.