Sergey Brins “2008 Founders’ Letter”

Clive Lobo

Sergey Brin wrote and published Googles 2008 Founders Letter on May 7th.  I had a chance to read it and I encourage you to do the same. Sergey reflects on the past decade and how Google has evolved over the years to improve search and add new services and systems. In his letter Sergey also talks about the next ten years and what may be in store for Google and the millions of people that user their services each and every day.

If you want a concise overview of what Google is about and where they are headed you should read the 2008 Founders’ Letter yourself. Here is a few paragraphs to whet your appetite!


Search remains at the very core of what we do at Google, just as it has been from our earliest days. As the scale has changed dramatically over the years, the presentation and quality of our search results have also undergone many changes since 1998. In the past year alone we have made 359 changes to our web search — nearly one per day. Some are not easy to spot, such as changes in ranking based on personalization (launched broadly in 2005) but they are important in getting the most relevant search results. Others are very easy to see and improve search efficiency in a very clear way, such as spelling correction, annotations, and suggestions.

While I am proud of what has been accomplished in search over the past decade, there are important areas in which I wish we had made more progress. Perfect search requires human-level artificial intelligence, which many of us believe is still quite distant. However, I think it will soon be possible to have a search engine that “understands” more of the queries and documents than we do today. Others claim to have accomplished this, and Google’s systems have more smarts behind the curtains than may be apparent from the outside, but the field as a whole is still shy of where I would have expected it to be. Part of the reason is the dramatic growth of the web — for any particular query, it is likely there are many documents on the topic using the exact same vocabulary. And as the web grows, so does the breadth and depth of the curiosity of those searching. I expect our search engine to become much “smarter” in the coming decade.

So too will the interfaces by which users look for and receive information. While many things have changed, the basic structure of Google search results today is fairly similar to how it was ten years ago. This is partly because of the benefits of simplicity; in fact, the Google homepage has become increasingly simple over the years: But we are starting to see more significant changes in search interfaces. Today you can search from your cell phone by just speaking into it and Google Reader can suggest interesting blogs without any query at all. It is my expectation that in the next decade our searches and results will look very different than they do today.

One of the most striking changes that has happened in the past few years is that search results are no longer just web pages. They include images, videos, books, maps, and more. From the outset, we realized that to have comprehensive search we would have to venture beyond web pages. In 2001, we launched Google Image Search and via Google Groups we made available and searchable the most comprehensive archive of Usenet postings ever assembled (800 million messages dating back to 1981).

Clive Lobo

Spark’s resident boss man, Clive possesses the very nature of an entrepreneurial spirit.

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