Beginning 10 years ago, search was on

Pedestrians walk by a sign outside of Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.

TEXT OF STORY

KAI RYSSDAL: We didn't know it at the time, but 10 years ago this week all of our lives started to change just a little bit. It didn't happen right away. The company responsible for it kind of snuck up on us the way a lot of things do in popular culture.

But then at some point you almost couldn't turn around without it being there.

Jason Lee: I use Google for almost everything now. I use Google for e-mail. I use Google Apps. I use Google Reader.

Ali Hamad: I use Google Earth.

Emily O'Laughlin: Also, I use the maps.

Back in the fall of 1998, though, when Google was incorporated, it wasn't much more than a search engine. It wasn't even the only one out there. Everybody just thought it worked better.

O'Laughlin: Do I remember life before Google? I do. It's vague, though.

Arnoldo Ullah: I used to use Lycos.

O'Laughlin: I just remember I didn't like Ask Jeeves. I thought Ask Jeeves really sucked. So when Google came along I was pretty excited about that.

Jeeves has taken leave. Now it's simply called Ask.com. Lycos is still around. Its shares aren't trading for $450 apiece, though.

Google went public four years ago, at what now seems like a bargain basement price of $85 a share. And a promise from its founders. . . .

Heidi Bradley: Do no harm, or something like that.

Robert Gaytan: Google's motto is, Don't be evil.

Maria Rodriguez: Don't be evil is the motto? Interesting. Google's motto is Don't be evil. . . . Good.

The company made it into the dictionary two years ago. This is from Merriam Webster's.

ONLINE VOICE: Google.

Verb, transitive: To use the Google search engine to obtain information on the World Wide Web.

Adriana Diaz: I Googled myself maybe three, four years ago and it brought up some murderer in South America.

OK, so what you get on Google doesn't always match up with what you're looking for. But the point is, at least you can look. Whether that's good or bad is a different issue.

A couple of months ago the Atlantic magazine had this question on the cover: "Is Google making us stupid?" Not in the absolute sense but in changing the way we think.

Kevin Collins: I expect to be able to instantly look up the answer to almost any question. And so I just no longer think of any kind of research as a daunting task. It's just made information unbelievably available.

About the only thing you can't find on Google is the actual date the company was founded. Some sources say the 4th of September 1998, for an incorporation date. Some say the 7th.

So we did what you used to have to do back in the old days before you could Google something. We actually called them up and asked.

They said they take all of September as Google's birthday.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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