Chapter 7: Google: Search or Destroy?
When it was proclaimed that the Library contained all books, the ﬁrst impression was one of extravagant happiness. All men felt themselves to be the masters of an intact and secret treasure. There was no personal or world problem whose eloquent solution did not exist in some hexagon . . . As was natural, this inordinate hope was followed by an excessive depression. The certitude that some shelf in some hexagon held precious books and that these precious books were inaccessible, seemed almost intolerable. (Jorge Luis Borges, ‘The Library of Babel’1) The popular search engine Google is named after the mathematical term ‘googol’ which refers to the number 1 followed by one hundred zeroes.2 The service enables users to search the Web, Usenet and images. Google’s features include PageRank, caching and translation of results and an option to ﬁnd similar pages. Its search engine depends on a ‘crawler’, that accesses and indexes a substantial proportion of the content accessible on the Web, and on a ‘precedence algorithm’ which sorts the pages that match any given search-string into a sequence. The company’s breakthrough technology and continued innovation serve its mission of ‘organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful’.3 Google was established in 1995 by Sergey Brin and Larry Page, two Stanford University students in Palo Alto, California.4 In 1998, Sergey and Larry established a private company with $1 million in funding from family, friends and angel investors. In August 2004, Google oﬀered 25.7 million shares in a Dutch auction,...
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