Do You “Google”?
This Internet search engine is so popular that its name has become a noun, a verb and an adjective in our common language.
Google derived its name from “googol,” the mathematical term for 1 followed by 100 zeros, a number larger than anything in the universe. When American mathematician Edward Kasner (1875-1955) wanted a word to illustrate the difference between an unimaginably large number and infinity, he asked the advice of his 9-year-old nephew Milton Sirotta, who suggested the word “googol.” It was introduced in print in 1940 by Kasner and James R. Newman in their book, Mathematics and the Imagination. According to the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia, “Google’s use of the term reflects the company’s mission to organize the immense amount of information available on the Web.”
The Internet’s most popular search service was founded in September of 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two Stanford Ph.D. candidates who developed a technologically advanced method for finding information on the Internet. When Google was a Stanford research project, it was nicknamed “BackRub” because the technology checked backlinks to determine the importance of a site. The company has grown from 4 employees to more than a thousand, includes billions of pages in its index, and the site (www.google.com) handles more than 200 million queries a day (more than 80% of all Internet searches). The Google interface is available in 88 languages, and not only stores information about web pages, but also snapshots of the pages themselves by caching them. A farm of more than 10,000 GNU/Linux computers is used to answer search requests and index the web.
The indexing is performed by a program called a “googlebot” that periodically requests new copies of the web pages it already knows about. Links in these pages are examined to discover new pages to be added to its database, which is several terabytes in size. Google takes a snapshot of each page examined as it crawls the web and caches these as a back-up in case the original page is unavailable. Clicking on the “Cached” link shows the web page as it looked when it was indexed. When a cached page is displayed, it will have a header at the top, serving as a reminder that this is not necessarily the most recent version of the page. The “Cached” link is missing for sites that have not been indexed, or those sites whose owners have requested that their content not be cached.
To access Google's search technology, Google Browser Buttons (www.google.com/options/buttons.html) can be added to your IE browser's personal toolbar, or the new Google Toolbar can be downloaded from toolbar.google.com. Another browser trick is to make Google your default search engine.
The new Google Toolbar, available in 37 languages, allows you to search the web with Google from any site, restrict your search to pages located in a specific country, search just within the pages of a site, and customize the layout of your toolbar. But the very best feature is the ability to allow or eliminate pop-up ads, something you can set for each individual site. It may be necessary to allow pop-ups on some sites that use them for forms. (So far, the pop-up blocker is available only in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish.) The Toolbar requires Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 or later (IE 5.5 or later for the pop-up blocker) and runs on Microsoft Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000, or XP. Additional help is available at toolbar.google.com/help.html.
The Google Translate Tool (www.google.com/language_tools) can translate text or entire web pages. To use Google's built-in calculator function, simply enter any calculation into the search box and hit the “Enter” key or click on the Google Search button. The calculator can solve math problems involving basic arithmetic, more complicated math, units of measure and conversions, and physical constants. You can also enter a query into the search box to use Google to find dictionary definitions. Relevant definitions are linked from a quality dictionary provider. If it’s not already included, send your favorite dictionary source to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Google has expanded the number of non-HTML file types searched to 12 file formats. In addition to PDF documents, Google now searches Microsoft Office, PostScript, Corel WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3, and others. The new file types appear in Google search results whenever they are relevant to the user query. Google also offers the ability to “View as HTML” to allow users to examine the contents of file formats even if they don’t have a corresponding application installed. This option can also avoid viruses that could sometimes be carried in certain file formats.
Google has also added US street address and phone number lookup. To find listings for a US business, type the business name into the Google search box, along with the city and state, or type the business name and zip code. Entering the phone number with area code will also return a complete business listing. To find listings for a US residence, type any combination of first name or initial, last name, city or state, area code or zip code, and phone number into the Google search box. To have your own residential or business phone and address information removed from the Google PhoneBook, go to www.google.com/help/pbremoval.html.
You can restrict your search to a specific site by entering the word “site” followed by a colon. Google's spell checking software automatically looks at your query and checks to see if you are using the most common version of a word’s spelling. If it calculates that you’re likely to generate more relevant search results with an alternative spelling, it will ask “Did you mean: (more common spelling)?”. Clicking on the suggested spelling will launch a Google search for that term. Because Google's spell check is based on occurrences of all words on the Internet, it’s able to suggest common spellings for proper nouns (names and places) that might not appear in a standard spell check program or dictionary.
To use Google to get stock and mutual fund information, just
enter one or more NYSE, NASDAQ, AMEX, or mutual fund ticker symbols,
or the name of a corporation traded on one of the stock indices.
If Google recognizes your query as a stock or mutual fund, it
will return a link that leads directly to stock and mutual fund
information from high quality financial information providers.
Visit labs.google.com to check out Google's technology playground, showcasing a few ideas that aren’t quite ready for prime time. You’re encouraged to play with these prototypes and send your comments directly to the Googlers who developed them. There are items like Search by Location (to restrict your search to a particular geographic area); Google News Alerts (you can specify a topic and receive email updates when news breaks); Google Viewer (view search results as scrolling web page images); Google Webquotes; or Google Glossary (find definitions for words, phrases and acronyms).
Other Google Services
Froogle (froogle.google.com) is a new beta service that makes it easy to find information about products for sale online. Froogle applies the power of Google's search technology to a very specific task: locating stores that sell the item you want to find and pointing you directly to the place where you can make a purchase. To use Froogle, type in the name of the item you want to find and click on "Froogle Search." Almost instantly, you'll see photos of relevant products and links to the stores that sell them. Or you may choose to browse through the merchandise categories listed on Froogle's home page until you find exactly the item you want to buy.
Froogle provides a lightning quick way to search the largest collection of stores and products on the web, but does not sell products and there is no shopping cart. Froogle only finds the product you want and points you to the store that sells it. The name Froogle is a play on the word “frugal” (meaning thrifty) and the name “Google,” which has come to stand for excellence in search technology. Suggestions for improvement at email@example.com.
Google Catalogs can search and browse mail-order catalogs online to find anything from industrial adhesives to clothing and home furnishings. To use it, select the “Catalog Search” link on the advanced search page or visit catalogs.google.com.
At groups.google.com you can post and read comments
in Usenet discussion forums. Google has fully integrated
the past 20 years of Usenet archives into Google Groups,
which now offers access to more than 800 million messages
dating back to 1981. Including the former Dejanews,
this is the most complete collection of Usenet articles
ever assembled and a fascinating first-hand historical
account. Tips to learn how to use it are posted at
Google Wireless (www.google.com/options/wireless.html) tells you how to access Google’s search technology when you’re on the move from any number of handheld devices, such as mobile phones, OmniSky, Palm VII, or Handspring handhelds. While the Google search engine may not yet have a “googol” of searchable pages in its index, it has grown very quickly from its small beginning in a Menlo Park, California garage to become a very valuable tool.
Beverly Rosenbaum, a HAL-PC member, is a 1999 and 2000 Houston Press Club “Excellence in Journalism” award winner. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.