[SiliconIndia] Google's Yahoo Moment.

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From: Adam Rifkin -4K (adam@XeNT.ics.uci.edu)
Date: Sun Aug 06 2000 - 23:04:18 PDT

As of January 1999, Google was just four people.
As of June 1999, Google was 23 people.
Now they're over 100.

And they have a business plan now, something we know they didn't have in
late 1998 / early 1999 from first-hand reports of their pitches.

So, were they lucky or good? Maybe both. Certainly Andy Bechtolsheim
writing a $100k check on the spot has made its way into the folklore...

A history of Google up to now:


> Google's Yahoo Moment
> Arthur Peter Schram
> Friday, July 21, 2000
> By 1996, the Google.com founders had built the most effective search
> engine of the time. Yahoo went public, and so did Excite but Google
> founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page continued with their research. Are
> these two guys just not business minded? To them, it has been worth the wait.
> Upon opening the door of Google headquarters, a visitor is greeted by a
> dicor that seems more in keeping with an up-market Palo Alto bar than a
> corporate headquarters. The sultry red couches are surrounded by lava
> lamps, and the sweeping reception desk is accompanied by bar chairs
> upholstered in the bright blue, yellow, red and green of the Google
> logo. The result looks like we've wandered onto the set of "Austin Powers."
> But looks can be deceiving. "We like to keep things fun," says Google
> president and co-founder Sergey Brin, but one need only look behind the
> "bar" in the lobby and the essence of Google is revealed. Projected onto
> a big screen, and appearing at the rate of about one per second, are the
> queries that people are currently typing into Google -- edited for
> content, of course. This mesmerizing display contains everything from
> "find a wife" to "tickets + Mets game." Suddenly it's clear that here,
> among the lava lamps and colorful furniture, searching is serious business.
> According to 26-year-old Brin, Google spent a lot of time in the
> research stage -- "unlike other startups." In 1995 Brin, along with CEO
> Larry Page, were Ph.D. students in computer science at Stanford when
> Page began downloading the World Wide Web. Brin saw the Web, which he
> refers to as "human knowledge on a computer," as a fascinating source of
> data for his data mining projects.
> Eventually Page and Brin decided that they could build a better search
> engine, and, according to Brin, by 1996 they had a prototype that worked
> better than the search engines of the time. At Stanford they were part
> of a research group called MIDAS. But, though prophetic, the acronym
> (mining data at Stanford) had nothing to do with the Internet equivalent
> of the "Midas touch." Despite the fact that Excite, Yahoo and other
> engines were already becoming successful, Brin and Page pursued the
> development of Google from a purely academic perspective, focusing on
> developing the technology rather than cashing in.
> "It was just a fun research project," says Rajeev Motwani, associate
> professor at Stanford and member of the Google technical advisory board.
> "Nobody expected that it would become a company. Once in a while, the
> two guys would come into my office and say, 'we need more disk -- can
> you buy us more disk?' -- so I would use my research grants to purchase
> another 100 gigabytes of disk space." Indeed, money was tight at times:
> To conserve it, the two graduate students built their own disk housing
> out of Leggo.
> In 1997, the technology was put to the test as a search engine for
> strictly Stanford Web pages. Soon Google began to generate a lot of
> interest. Brin and Page talked to people in the industry from Yahoo,
> Excite, and others, to discuss their technology. They bought a terabyte
> of disk ("off the back of a truck," Brin says ruefully), which they
> funded themselves. Or rather, they put the $15,000 it took to purchase
> it -- a fortune for grad students -- on their credit cards. This marked
> the first real commitment that they had made to turn Google into more
> than simply an academic pursuit.
> In September of '98, after considering licensing the product to others,
> Brin and Page decided that the only way to proceed would be to start a
> company. They were running on a variety of "borrowed" computers at
> Stanford, and it was time to raise money. Six months away from
> completing their Ph.D. theses, the two founders and current Google
> director of technology Craig Silverstein --employee number one -- took
> leaves of absence and began to pursue the fruits of their research.
> Motwani recounts one night, even before the company was incorporated,
> when the two founders bumped into Sun Microsystems founder Andy
> Bechtolsheim, who wrote them a check for $100,000 on the spot. They then
> got in touch with angel investors, including Bechtolsheim, and Junglee
> founder Ram Shriram. In November of the same year the Google.com search
> engine was up.
> The angel investment had not diluted the company very much, and so the
> venture round was approached with the goal of finding the right people,
> rather than getting the highest valuation imaginable. The soft-spoken
> Brin still has the casual ease of a college student on a class project.
> On the day of our interview he is on his way to a major business meeting
> and is dressed in a short-sleeved Google shirt and black jeans. He looks
> proud when he explains with a smile that when he and Page told
> Bechtolsheim their proposed company valuation, he advised them to "make
> it higher." From talking to Brin, who tells us that every venture
> capitalist they talked to had interest in funding Google, one gets the
> impression that the company was a pretty easy pitch -- simply, it was
> the best search engine out there.
> But the venture round would bring with it one additional twist, since
> the company funding marked the collaboration of Sequoia Capital and
> Kleiner Perkins-- and, more specifically, John Doerr and Mike Moritz,
> veritable rock stars of the VC world. Moritz funded Yahoo, and Doerr
> funded Sun Microsystems and Netscape. Today, both sit on Google's board.
> Incredibly, Google comprised only four people until January of 1999. The
> $25 million venture round was announced in June. By August, a deal had
> been done with Netscape. Soon the Washington Post, www.virgin.net and
> others had adopted Google as their search engine of choice. Google's
> popularity grew through word of mouth. But it was in June of 2000, when
> Yahoo announced that Google would become its default search provider,
> that the growing former-research project really became a household name.
> The media's take on it was that the biggest name on the Internet had
> recognized the merits of this relatively obscure piece of technology and
> adopted it. But the reality was very different. Brin and Page had been
> in contact with Jerry Yang and David Filo since the start, and had often
> sought the Yahoo founders' advice. Motwani explains, "There was never
> any doubt that it would get this big. It was clear that they were so
> much better than the other search engines…. Yahoo is run by very
> smart people. They waited until Google had been thoroughly tested."
> So what's the secret to Google's success? The details come down to very
> complicated mathematical problems, but the real breakthrough, according
> to Motwani, exists in the realization that what is important is not just
> the information on Web pages, but the way those Web pages interact. The
> core of this concept lies in the Page Rank system, which Google soon
> hopes to patent. In short, a page is considered important if another
> page links to it, and the more important the page that links to it, the
> higher the page is ranked. If Yahoo links to a site, for example, then
> the page grows in importance. This is the heart of Google's system.
> The future remains uncertain for the Internet. Google certainly plans to
> stay on top. The company has created an entire research group -- an
> amazing feat for a privately held company that has received only $25
> million dollars in VC funding. This group, together with the massive
> engineering team, will attempt to ensure that Google's technology
> remains cutting-edge. Motwani explains, "On a scale of one to ten, the
> current development of the search engine is at one." Motwani sees
> personalization issues as very important to the future of search. He
> explains that, "For the query 'Jaguar,' one person might want to know
> about the car, and the other about the animal." For him, personalization
> will be key to allowing the search engine to make these decisions. But
> he also recognizes that there are a lot of privacy issues involved.
> Google will not, according to Brin, turn into another Yahoo or Excite.
> He explains, "The reason that we've been so successful is because we
> have focused on search; we have by far the most people working on search
> in the world." The reason for this, according to him, is that "The
> future of the Internet is very closely tied to search -- it speeds up
> people's access to information. But the next step is to make it more
> integrated into people's lives, and search will be very important to
> this because you need to have something that really responds to you
> quickly." His vision for the future involves "simple ubiquitous devices
> that will give access to this information."
> These devices will, for example, understand an individual's location, so
> that a query of "pizza" will be understood as a query for pizza in
> Tokyo, Delhi or New York.
> It remains to be seen who will lead us into the next era of the
> Internet, but right now Google seems well placed to take on a prominent
> role. Brin explains that his competition lies with relative unknowns
> developing new technology. Are the future tech stars lurking within the
> halls of Stanford, Caltech or MIT? According to Brin, they are out
> there, but he points out that their task is more difficult today than it
> was in 1995. For now, he and Larry Page enjoy their position as the
> undisputed kings of search.


It turns out that a practical Infoset cannot fully represent everything that can be represented by the syntax: information gets lost, for instance along the lines of whether a letter A was written A or A in the source document. So the Infoset and the syntax do not exactly represent the same markup language.

Keen Infosetters maintain that XML is the Infoset, and that the current XML syntax is merely one possible serialization of the Infoset. In fact, they say it's a serialization that may one day be retired.

This view is a bit much for those who've been around XML since the start. XML was conceived as a syntax. The Infoset may well help life for XML applications and their implementors, but to insist it redefines XML is quite something.

To overgeneralize, the syntax/infoset division could be considered as a division between the document- and object-centric folks. Syntax-oriented people focus on the exchange of XML documents. What is in the document, and the way it is expressed, is important and meaningful. Schemas aren't necessarily important to them.

Infoset-oriented folks see the XML data model as a unifying object model between diverse applications. They see XML doing inside their programs what XML documents do between whole systems. Schemas are vital to them because they add the data-typing that programming languages have.

And neither world always cares a whole deal about the other.

-- Edd Dumbill, http://edd.oreillynet.com/discuss/msgReader$92

[See also Leigh Dodds' "Investigating the Infoset" posted after the latest draft of the XML Information Set spec was published this week: http://www.xml.com/pub/2000/08/02/deviant/infoset.html ]

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