Google was founded by two Stanford PhD students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, in 1998. The two recognized a need within the internet services industry for a search engine that would provide accurate results. The two opened Google, Inc. as an online company that provided a superior search engine, a platform for extremely targeted advertisements, and intranet solutions to internet users across the world. The company obtained the majority of its revenues by selling advertising space within the search results. Google employed an innovative system for selling this space to companies; companies would only have to pay Google for the advertising space if a customer “clicked” on their advertisement. As Google became the most-used search engine in the world due to its greater accuracy of producing relevant results, advertising revenues increased at a phenomenal rate.
Google faced competition from others in the internet search services industry; specifically AOL, MSN, and Yahoo. Each competitor recognized the importance of a quality search engine to customers - as well as the opportunity to gain advertising revenues - and was attempting to develop an innovative search engine that would top Google’s. Competition from Microsoft was also a possibility. Microsoft indicated that they might attempt to add a search engine to their new operating system that was set for release in 2006. While Microsoft was not an established player in the internet search services industry, they had the technical expertise and massive resources to present a major competitive threat. The importance of the search engine to Google’s competitors as a stand-alone service was great but the development of a search engine rivaling or bettering Google’s would also attract customers to their other services. Google’s competitors offered many other services, in addition to their search services, such as email, online dating, and fantasy sports networks and were successful in doing so. Google’s success as a company hinged almost completely on the success of their search engine.
Google, Inc. began to diversify into other segments of the internet services industry in order to lessen the risk of having only one truly successful product and to build up both their customer base and customer loyalty. Google began to offer internet users the ability to search within a directory of 425,000 still images. Their collection of images tied with Yahoo’s as internet users’ first choice for image-searches. Google also began offering a directory of 500 million discussion topics that dated back to 1981 called Google Groups. Customers, in addition to being able to examine discussion topics within Google Groups, could add postings to a new group. Also, in 2004, Google began offering its users access to a compilation of 4,500 news sources located all over the world. Google then developed a service that would allow cell phone and handheld device customers to use Google’s search and other services on their wireless devices. In addition to these services and others, Google developed Google Catalog, a service that would allow users to search print mail order catalogs, and offered email accounts to select clients.
In order to remain ahead of the competition and an industry leader in providing internet services, Google had to now make some strategic decisions. To assure the future of the company, Google’s management team knew that they would have to differentiate Google’s products from those offered by competing companies, such as Yahoo, MSN, and AOL. Google could either continue to expand the amounts of services it offered (i.e. include text messaging services, large email accounts, and others), it could work to improve the services it offered across the board, or it could focus on improving its most successful creation: the Google search engine. Each option had its merits and the company had plenty of resources to use...