Archive for Monday, May 20, 2002

Prime portal

Google wins praise from tech experts, pop culture pundits

May 20, 2002


David Gallagher has a goal in life.

A truly admirable goal, really.

It is his intent to become a No. 1 Google search result.

Simply put, Google is an Internet search engine (, and if one could call a search engine "sexy," the Google would be the pinup power search of the World Wide Web.

Established just four years ago by two Stanford Ph.D. students, Google is regarded as the world's hippest search engine. Praised for its clean design and lightning-fast interface, it answers more than 150 million search requests from around the world every day.

From health to hobbies, news to sports, entertainment to careers, whatever the topic, however obscure, quick and easy searches are the fundamental axiom of Google.

But Google's not just a popular search-churning Internet portal, it has become a way of life one that has spawned its own lexicon ("googling," that is, to do Google searches) and related games and offshoot Web sites.

As for Gallagher, he's using Google to improve his ranking in life.

Well, sort of.

"When I first started using the Internet, I did the same thing everyone does, I did a search on my name," explains Gallagher, 31, a reporter for the New York Times who also runs a Web journal,, from his Brooklyn home.

Much to Gallagher's dismay, there was another, more prolific David Gallagher out there a teen actor from the TV show "7th Heaven." Not only was the kid hogging precious bandwidth, but he was potentially sucking visitors away from reporter Gallagher's site.

"I felt invisible," Gallagher says. "So I started to experiment to see if I could manipulate search results to make my Web site the No. 1 result."

Gallagher started asking friends to include a link to his site on their own pages.

"It's no secret that you can affect (a desired) Google search result," Gallagher explains. "Because Google looks at how many people are linking to you and what the text link says about you."

Successful at searching

When Sergey Brin and Larry Page started collaborating in their Stanford dorm in the mid'90s, the goal was just to set the smart-search standard.

Then called Backrub for the way that it "massaged the Internet," Brin and Page had designed their product to determine results by ranking, both in relevance and popularity.

"It was a very primitive search engine," Brin said. But as more people began to use it, it became increasingly clear that we had (created) a valuable technology."

Backrub has evolved into Google and moved from the dorm to a friend's garage and finally to the current "Googleplex."

The Googleplex itself, replete with lava lamps, beach balls, video games and video screen that scrolls a never-ending list of Googlesearches, is just partial evidence of the privately held company's success.

Whereas most Internet companies have struggled to hold ground amid the dot-com crash and burn, Google appears to be thriving as tech experts and pop culture pundits praise its performance.

In 2001, Wired lauded the site with unabashed glee: "Google does search brilliantly." The Wall Street Journal offered similar praise: "Google is a beacon in a sea of confusion."

'Wedded to the site'

Google's well-oiled nuts and bolts operate something like this: Type a query into the Google search engine box and Google will try and "think" like you, looking for phrases that match the query and then "ranking" them in order of importance. The results are staggeringly precise because the pages are ranked based on how many hits a page receives as well as the umber of links leading to that page.

For the more daring, the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button links directly to the highest-ranked return. Or, try Google's popular "cache" option, which shows archived snapshots of pages that no longer may exist.

Whatever the choice, the search, aided by thousands of high-powered computers and servers, takes just a fraction of a second.

It was such speed and accuracy that led Search Engine Watch ( to name Google the best Web site of 2000.

"There is no doubt that Google is one of the most-used search engines," says Search Engine Watch editor Danny Sullivan.

"In essence, Sullivan says, "Google users are particularly loyal, to the point of being wedded to the site."

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