Google was busy in 2013. As of September 2013, Google has a market cap value of over $260 billion. The search leader also celebrated its 15-year anniversary with over 44,000 employees, having its hands in more technologies than one can confidentially measure. Google has acquired 139 companies since 2001, reminding us that it is not just a search engine.
Here is a list of some of Google’s biggest moves in 2013:
Its search engine is still Google’s most recognizable product and remains the number one tool when it comes to searching online. This likely won’t change anytime soon. It’s important to remember that Google’s algorithms continually evolve, which has resulted in some major shifts in 2013 – and major pain points for webmasters.
What insights do we have into Google’s algorithms? Guy Kawasaki shared an infographic that states that Google evaluates more than 200 concepts when indexing and ranking websites. It also changes the weight that it gives any of these factors with every major update. The most notable in 2013 were Panda, Penguin and the infamous Hummingbird update that heavily penalized websites for SEO tactics it now deems unnatural.
Are you on Google+? You may not be, but USAToday posted that it has 300 million active monthly users, making it one of the fastest growing social networks. The SEO benefit alone makes participation a necessity. As you search in Google, you will start to see Google+ updates frequently ranking on the first page. Google’s own search expert, Matt Cutts, has stated that this is only going to increase. The network also includes valuable features like Hangouts that offer a free and reliable video conferencing resource.
Watch out Siri – Google’s voice is on a level playing field. The Chrome browser and Android mobile devices allow users to have a “conversation” with their search browser. Through natural language processing and semantic search, users do not have to start a new search when continuing through a natural, iterative process. Once you apply this update to your PC or Android phone, ask Google “Ok Google, where am I?” or “Ok Google, who is the President of the United States?” Check out this conversational search demonstration from Google’s 2013 I/O developer conference.
Although struggling a bit to get widespread acceptance, Google Glass is an interesting piece of technology. It is worn like any pair of glasses, adding a heads up display that can be used like a GPS. It can also take pictures or record videos, as well as provide some of the conversational search functions. Those given the opportunity to test it are giving Glass mixed results. It is still buggy and there is no API for developers to create apps and add functionality. But the biggest complaint is that Glass just looks a bit goofy. The full launch is scheduled for later this year, and the next iteration may alleviate many of those concerns.
Google has created the Android operating system that has taken on Apple in the mobile phone and tablet markets, but that was just a start. It launched some of its own hardware, including the Chromebook Pixel, over the last year. Expect more to come. Other vendors can manipulate and customize their versions of Google’s operating systems and applications through APIs. By creating its own hardware, Google can have complete control of its products. It will continue to develop its own hardware including computers, smartphones, data centers and even robots.
That brings us to Google robots. Yes, robots. In December 2013, Google acquired Boston Dynamics, an engineering and robotics company that was originally partially funded DARPA. But this is not the first move into this world – Google has now acquired 8 robotics companies. Speculations about future applications of this technology are widespread, ranging from warehouse logistics to elder care.
Google’s Chromecast has already begun to get extensive attention. This $35 device connects to a TV, allowing users to easily stream online media via wifi. It’s controlled by a smartphone, tablet or PC (including Apple devices) and at this price point, it’s priced for anyone. Imagine watching Netflix on the big screen while in a hotel room on business travel.
It is clear that Google plans to provide tools and resources that go well beyond Internet search, including products that will impact how we interact with the spectrum of technologies. For now, search will continue to be the dominant offering. After all, search is the primary way we find the technology we buy and use, giving Google the potential to sell many of these technologies. The possibilities are endless. Perhaps one day your Google robot will carry the groceries from your Google self-driving car, and then prepare your dinner in your Google smart kitchen.