Recognizing the Second Generation Inventors IV – Breakthrough with Professor MK Othman

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Larry Page and Sergey Brin

Recognition of inventors is an inexhaustible exercise to this Column because of the dynamic nature of technological innovations and inventions.  Readers may recall that my article of 5th January 2018 with caption “Recognizing the Second Generation Inventors III” focused on the WhatsApp as one of the social media channels. This channel became so successful and attractive to the generality of people and truly made the world to be a global village. Thus, the efficacious outing of WhatsApp made it irresistible and attractive bride to Facebook who earlier denied the inventors gainful employment. In 2014, Facebook eventually purchased WhatsApp for a princely price of $12 billion in stock and $4 billion in cash. In addition, Facebook set aside another $3 billion in restricted stock units to be granted to WhatsApp’s founders and employees that will invest over the next four years. WhatsApp calls itself “a personal real-time messaging network allowing millions of people around the world to stay connected with their friends and family.” During the $19 business transaction between Facebook and WhatsApp, It was apparent that WhatsApp was on a path to connect 1 billion people globally. The Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was quoted thus, “The services that reach that milestone (of connecting 1 billion people) are all incredibly valuable. I’ve known Jan for a long time and I’m excited to partner with him and his team to make the world more open and connected.” The marriage of convenience between Facebook and WhatsApp took the global communication system to the zenith, can there be further improvement? Where are we heading? Time will tell.

Before we predict the future, let us continue to recognize similar spectacular inventions within the social media for efficient and effective communication. Google is one important social media tool that seems to have answers to all the questions posed by all internet users on all spheres of human endeavors at all times in all circumstances as long as there is internet service. Google is an electronic miracle with stunning amazement of the 21st Century, which is handy to both students and teachers. Google is a search engine, which handles more than 70 percent of all online requests and queries on all subjects from humanity to social and hard-core sciences. Google has transformed to a giant company whose stock consistently sells for $600 a share or higher on the Nasdaq exchange. One of the most astounding traits of Google is not the overwhelming success but how it was achieved within a “twinkle of an eye”. That was the timeline Google to triumph. Historically, IBM existed as back as 1911 while Microsoft and Apple started in the mid-1970s. Google started in 1993 as PhD research work of Larry Page, a 22 year old graduate of University of Michigan who worked with another student a 21-year-old Sergey Brin, at Stanford University. Therefore, Page and Brin are the two young men globally reputed to be the inventors of Google. How did it start?

Google is a search engine or portal and there have been many search engines since the early days of the Internet. In fact, Google is a relative latecomer among in the class of search engines but grew to become the most reliable and premier destination for finding just about anything on the World Wide Web (WWW). What’s a Search Engine? A search engine is a program that searches the Internet and finds web pages for the user based on the keywords typed in the computer or smart handsets connected with Internet. Search engine contains several parts, which include (but not limited to) spider software search fields, display format, a database and algorithms that rank results for relevancy.

Google is the most popular search engine and was code named after a “googol”, a word for a Mathematical number of 1 followed by 100 zeros (10100) found in the book “Mathematics and the Imagination” by Edward Kasner and James Newman. To the site’s founders, the name represents the immense amount of information that a search engine has to sift through to find an appropriate answer to any query. At the time of Google commencement, search engines were known to rank results based on how often a search term appeared on a web page. The Google search engine was unique with a technology called “PageRank”, which determined a website’s relevance by taking into account the number of pages, along with the importance of the pages that linked back to the original site. Page and Brin continued to improve Google overtime. It was very much a shoestring project, operating out of their dorm rooms, the pair built a server network using cheap, used and borrowed personal computers. They even maxed their credit cards buying terabytes of disks at discount prices. After a relative success, they first tried to license their search engine technology but failed to find anyone that wanted their product at an early stage of development. Page and Brin then decided to keep Google in the meantime and seek more financing, improve the product and take it to the public themselves once they had a good product.The strategy worked out well and after more improvement, Google finally turned into a hot commodity. Sun Microsystems co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim said after a quick demo of Google, “Instead of us discussing all the details, why don’t I just write you a check?”He did just that. The $100,000 check was made out to Google Inc., though Google, as a legal entity did not exist yet. It didn’t take long, however, as Page and Brin incorporated within two weeks, cashed the check and raised $900,000 more for their initial round of funding.

In September of 1998, Google Inc. opened in Menlo Park, California, and Google.com, a beta search engine, was answering 10,000 search queries every day. On September 21, 1999, Google officially removed the beta (test status) from its title. As inventors of Google who transformed to Google Inc., Page and Brin owned about 14 percent of its shares and control 56 percent of the stockholder voting power through super-voting stock. On August 19, 2004, at Stock market, an initial public offering (IPO) took place, which brought Google Inc. to limelight. The Company moved to its new headquarters to Mountain View, California, nicknamed the Googleplex. In August 2015, Google announced plans to reorganize its various interests as a conglomerate called Alphabet Inc. Google, Alphabet’s leading subsidiary continue to be the umbrella company for Alphabet’s Internet interests. Upon completion of the restructure, Sundar Pichai was appointed as CEO of Google, replacing Larry Page, who became the CEO of Alphabet.

According to the online source https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google, the Google Inc. grows rapidlyfrom the time it was incorporated with a chain of products, acquisitions, and partnerships beyond Google’s core search engine (Google Search). It offers services designed for work and productivity (Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides), email (Gmail/Inbox), scheduling and time management (Google Calendar), cloud storage (Google Drive), social networking (Google+), instant messaging and video chat (Google Allo/Duo/Hangouts), language translation (Google Translate), mapping and turn-by-turn navigation (Google Maps/Waze/Earth/Street View), video sharing (YouTube), note-taking (Google Keep), and photo organizing and editing (Google Photos). The company leads the development of the Android mobile operating system, the Google Chrome web browser, and Chrome Operation System, a lightweight operating system based on the Chrome browser. Google swung increasingly into hardware development from 2010 to 2015, it partnered with major electronics manufacturers in the production of its Nexus devices. In 2016, Google released multiple hardware products (including the Google Pixel smartphone, Home smart speaker, Wifi mesh wireless router, and Daydream View virtual reality headset). The new hardware chief, Rick Osterloh, stated: “a lot of the innovation that we want to do now ends up requiring controlling the end-to-end user experience”. Google has also experimented with becoming an Internet carrier. In February 2010, it announced Google Fiber, a fiber-optic infrastructure that was installed in Kansas City; in April 2015, it launched Project Fi in the United States, combining Wi-Fi and cellular networks from different providers; and in 2016, it announced the Google Station initiative to make public Wi-Fi available around the world, with initial deployment in India.

The movement of Google is rapidly amazing with menacing aim at concurring the global communication industry. The Google clientele is increasingly swelling at exponential rate and enjoying effective services at relatively lower costs making the pockets of Google inventors to similarly swells without ceiling. What is the target of Google?

early inventors
Professor Othman is the Executive Director of National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), ABU Zaria.

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