18 Ways Google Has Changed The World

by Sohini Bagchi    Sep 27, 2016

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Google turns 18 and is now an adult. You may ask: Do we really care? Well, the answer is “Yes, we do…” That’s because, Google is everywhere and whether we like it or not, its presence cannot be denied; in fact few companies have had such a huge impact on our daily lives as Google.

With over 70 offices in more than 40 global locations, including India, the Mountain View, California-company grew substantially in its size and reputation in the last 18 years - from being the most popular search engine to the world’s favorite web browser, maps service, email client, mobile operating system, and online video site - subsequently becoming a key part of our daily lives.

Here’s an account of how Google has impacted the way we live and work and in turn changed the world in the last 18 years.

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1. Making ‘Search’ ubiquitous

“Google it” is a common term we use whenever we need any information. Google began with ’search’ its first product that is so ubiquitous it is now a verb synonymous with looking up information online. The search engine is by many accounts the single most-visited page on the Internet. Google indexes much of the world’s online information, putting any desired public knowledge just a few keystrokes away. The Google search engine has indeed changed the way we think, browse information and connect to the world.

2. Gmail: Making communication easy and fast 

Gmail was invented at a time when storage space was sacred—and deleting emails was as tedious-but-necessary job. Initially, that is in 2004, it started as an invitation-only beta release, it became available to the general public on February 7, 2007. The service was upgraded from beta status since 2009, along with the rest of the Google Apps suite, with greater innovation efforts every year. 

3. YouTube: Changing the way we watch videos

While Google didn’t create YouTube, it bought the video-sharing site less than 18 months after its public debut in 2005 and has powered its meteoric rise. Now, YouTube has been localized in 56 countries and more than 100 hours of video are uploaded to the site every minute.

4. Google Docs: Powering business collaboration

Using Google Docs, people collaborate on text documents, spreadsheets, and slideshows, wherever they may be. It’s a surprisingly malleable tool that’s been used in classrooms, newsrooms, and to help people find a place to stay after the Boston Marathon bombings earlier this year. Occupy Wall Street organizers collaborated with each other using docs, as did Arab Spring protestors.

Read more: Google Drive Search Gets Smarter; What It Means For Biz Users

5. Google Person Finder: Tracking during emergency

As useful as Docs is in emergencies, Google’s Person Finder tool is perhaps more effective in tracking down missing people in a disaster. The company launched the tool following the 2010 Haiti earthquake and has been a powerful tool in times of need.

6. Hangouts: Planning effective meetings

Google Hangouts can be a great asset to a company of any size, and the low cost makes it ideal for smaller businesses and startups. Hangouts allows you to easily connect with employees, business colleagues, and clients using calls and videos, making it convenient for those who travel or work from home. It also gives you the flexibility of connecting from virtually any device. You can share files as you chat via Google Drive, stream live broadcasts and offer webinars, hold staff meetings, and more.

7. Google Maps: Capturing location in real time

Most people can’t find their way across the street anymore without Google Maps. By including traffic data and local public transport information, it’s become an absolute necessity, further bolstered by the Street View tool, which captures locations in real life through car-mounted cameras. Google Maps is not only useful for people who are planning a trip, but is an extremely good marketing tool for small to medium businesses. While large organizations usually have budgets to make their presence everywhere, for smaller businesses this comes as boon as Google Maps help potential customers get an exclusive online presence showing where your business is based.

8. Google Earth: Tracking the minutest places

Another innovation from Google lets you zoom into almost any location on the planet, including the secretive Area 51 facility, for a closer look via satellite. It too has changed lives, as in the case of the lost boy who found his mother in India a quarter-century after he disappeared.

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9. Android: Changing the mobile world

Android is the most powerful, and the most widely used mobile-based operating system. Its user-friendsly features and speed, have won the hearts of millions. Its famous for its unique design, and signature bot, which is its logo. Android is an outcome of millions invested by Google, but the results paid off well. Despite stiff competition from iOS and others, Android already commands over 80 percent of the mobile OS market share globally.

10. Google News: Information and more information

Google News indexes up-to-the-minute reports from all over the world. It is undoutedly an invaluable tool for keeping track of a story as it develops. Google News, along with RSS, changed the way we consume news and learn what’s going on.

12. Google analytics: Turning data into profit

Google Analytics, the freemium web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic, was launched the service in November 2005 after acquiring Urchin. It is now the most widely used web analytics service on the Internet. Google Analytics is offered also in two additional versions: the subscription based Google Analytics 360, previously Google Analytics Premium, targeted at enterprise users and Google Analytics for Mobile Apps, an SDK that allows gathering usage data from iOS and Android Apps.

13. Self-driving cars: The next revolution

Self-driving cars, once limited to science fiction movies is soon becoming a reality, thanks to Google, which is working hard to drive the automation process in future cars that will eventually result into self-driving and autonomous vehicles. These vehicles will autonomously sense, interpret, act and communicate with other automobiles, infrastructures, businesses, people and organizations. Google’s driverless car, in which computers direct vehicles to where they need to go can also help visually impaired persons drive their own vehicles. 

Read more: Four Technologies Shaping Cars Of The Future

14. Google Glass: wearable saga begins

In July 2012, the tech giant unveild wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display (OHMD) that is being developed by Google in the Project Glass research and development project. The aim was to produce a mass-market ubiquitous computer. Despite several disappointments, many believed, the eyewear may change the world and how we connect with each other. At present, it is compelling to outsiders for giving a first-person look at interesting situations, from arrests and proposals to surgeries and business meetings. A lot more innovation and research around Google Glass is on.

15. Project Loon: Connecting the world

We believe Internet is omnipresent. However, there are still vast regions of the world where it is impossible to grab an affordable data signal. The project aims to spread affordable Internet access to even the most remote regions. Project Loon was developed in the clandestine Google X lab that also came up with a driverless car and Google’s Web-surfing eyeglasses. It’s a strategy, Google says, that will get people online cheaper and faster than traditional cable-based connections laid in the ground. 

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16. Google Allo: Entering the age of smart messaging 

Google recently released a new messaging app Allo for smart messaging. Apart from chatting, it allows users perform quick searches inside the app. Considering that most of its users will find it challenging to type a message, Google Allo relies heavily on photos, emojis, and stickers. The Google Allo app is currently out for Android and iOS users.And while rivals like Facebook and Kik already have announced chatbot stores for their messaging apps, Google takes it a step further with Smart Reply that suggests responses based on the context of conversations.   

Read more: 5 Key Takeaways from Google I/O 2016

17. Tryst with Artificial Intelligence, Robotics

Google has invested heavily in artificial intelligence in recent years to strengthen its existing products and spawn new ones. Most of its projects from Project Loon, to Google Glass and even the Project Allo, rely on AI research and resources. For example, Magenta, a project from the Google Brain team, released its first computer-generated song, which was composed without any human assistance. Google DeepMind, the UK-based research lab, acquired by Google in 2014, claims to have significantly improved computer-generated speech with its AI technology, paving the way forward for sophisticated talking machines like those seen in sci-fi films like “Her” and “Ex-Machina.”

18. Google and climate change

Google is looking for new ways to save itself and the world. It is using AI significantly for Google’s data centers, given its potential to greatly improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions overall. Notably, Google’s data centers use 40% less energy thanks to AI. This has also helped other companies who run on Google’s cloud to improve their own energy efficiency. “We are using machine learning to consume less energy and help address one of the biggest challenges of all — climate change,” said a Google blog.