Has Google actually invented anything?

I know people who think Google invented all kinds of stuff. No, they didn’t. They bought Youtube. They bought Android. Most of Google+ and Google Maps was based off of things made by other companies they bought. Web search existed before they did. Only thing I can think of that they really invented is Google Glass.

PageRank, MapReduce and the Google File System.

PageRank was the single biggest evolution of search engines - ever. Perhaps one forgets the situation in the 90s - when (if memory serves) - 3 out of 4 of the major search engines couldn’t even find themselves on the front page.

PageRank + Anchor Text and big advances in Crawling efficiencies made Google untouchable for years.

One could argue, of Course, that they didn’t really invent PageRank - as that method was already used for determining ranking of Academic Journals, but they were the first to apply it to the web.

They may have bought some of the technology for their mapping, but they put it all together - along with an ambitious program of street view.

Lots of what Google does has to do with scalability.

Before Google, web search engines ranked search results by just looking at the page (how many times your keyword appears, etc). Larry Page invented the idea of ranking web pages by how many OTHER pages linked to it, and what words were used for those links. (It’s based on how the value of academic papers is judged: by the number of other papers that cite it.)

Google is more an expert organizer than an inventor. Scholar, books, images, and shopping were all developed in-house, I believe. While they’re not revolutionary ideas, their implementation on a global scale is an incredibly difficult problem and Google tackled them with great success.

Their other products also have significant impact, but as you said most of them were purchased and then iterated upon.

The vast majority of Google’s innovation comes by figuring out how to do relatively simple things at massive, mind-boggling scale. Naturally, a lot of this work consists of infrastructure projects that are not directly visible to the front-end user.

Exactly. Taking pictures of a few major streets and putting them online is easy. Taking pictures along 5 million miles of roads and putting them all online takes a lot of technology development, resources, innovative marketing (to pay for it all), etc.

So if I’ve got it right what they do well (sort of like Apple but in a different way) is develop, apply, and implement extant ideas extremely well? Which then utilizes the idea to different domains and on different scales and different levels of usage?

Although the concept has been around a while, I think they are the first to be actively working on and making progress towards global domination.

Not really. In a lot of cases, solving a problem at a small scale is relatively easy, whereas moving it up to web scale requires genuinely new technologies.

For instance, imagine that you’re given a collection of documents that may contain duplicates and asked to figure out all of the unique documents. If you have 500 documents, you can go through and compute whatever metrics you like for each pair of documents. If you have 500 million documents, looking at all of the pairs is simply not possible, and so you need fast ways to rule out pairs that are definitely not similar so that you can concentrate on the matches.

That second version is the sort of problem that Google tends to deal with.

17,900 hits on a patent search, according to Google.
Of course few of them are actually things and most sound like double talk that only a few software engineers would give a hoot about.

According to this PDF document, Google was awarded 2,190 patents in 2013, ahead of Apple and Intel but behind IBM and Microsoft.

The question is, did Google create these patents, or buy them?

Why does this matter? Google, as the abstract entity, cannot invent anything. People do. Some people first invent then sell to Google. Others first sell (their labor/rights to the future inventions) to Google, then invent. How does the sequence of events matter?


It would matter if you were wondering about how organizations stifle or promote innovation.

Ok - can you explain how Google buying patents vs. developing them in-house stifles or promotes innovation?

This is what made Google. They were a revolution in the search engine business. If you want to argue that since then, Google hasn’t added much to society, I won’t argue. If you want to say that, since then, Google has been a bigger negative that a positive, you may well have a case. But if you’re argument is that Google hasn’t done anything beneficial, then you’re way wrong. Searching before Google was awful.

If Google doesn’t develop anything in house, but has to buy everything, that would suggest that their organization stifles innovation, while if they developed it in house it would suggest they promote it.

In 2013, Google spent eight billion on R&D, so presumably something is being developed in-house.