Searching on Google

Mike Procter and Robin Basselin look at the computer search program Google. They look at how it works, and compare it to the human brain.

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Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Mike Procter.

Voice 2 

And I’m Robin Basselin. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

A few years ago, I googled my sister. I had not seen or heard from her for 20 years and I wanted to know where she was. So I turned on my computer, went to Google, and typed in her name.

In a second or two I had a list of places on the Internet where her name appears. One of them gave her e-mail address. I wrote to her, and she wrote back. Our e-mails broke 20 years of silence. What a joy to talk with her again!

Voice 2 

Almost all computer users know Google. It is the world’s most successful ‘search engine’. A search engine is a service to help people find information on the Internet. Today’s Spotlight is on Google.

Voice 1 

Google’s story began in 1995. Two university students in California thought of an idea. Their names were Sergey Brin and Larry Page. Their idea was a new way for search engines to work. The students took their idea to the existing search engine companies, but these companies rejected the idea. So the students began their own search engine company. They called it Google. The name seemed fun. But it also had another meaning. The word google means “a very large number.”  And the Google search engine searches through a very large number of web pages.

Voice 2 

Google began operating in 1998. The company became public in 2004. That means its worth is divided into many shares owned by many people. In less than two years the value of the shares increased four times, to $140,000,000,000. By 2012, Sergey Brin and Larry Page were very rich men. Each one was worth over $18,000,000,000.

Voice 1 

Now, Google is not just a search engine. It has many other products too - including an email system, an internet browser, and a social network program. There are Google products for looking at maps, sharing pictures, and working on documents. People can use Google products for just about everything they do on the internet!

Voice 2 

Google is a financial success. The company makes a good profit. And yet when people use Google products, they pay nothing. These products are free. How, then, does Google make money? The answer is on most pages of Google search results. There are some results called ‘Sponsored Links’. These results are there because someone is paying for them. They are a form of advertising. Google is careful to show the sponsored links separately from the normal results of the search. That way, we users can tell which is which. The sponsors are usually companies. They pay Google only when a user clicks on their sponsored link. Companies like this kind of advertising, because it is ‘targeted’ - that is, it reaches only people who are truly interested in what the company has to offer.

Voice 1 

But Brin and Page were not interested in profit when they invented Google. In 1997, they wrote a paper. The paper explained how Google works. You can still find it on the Internet. It is interesting to read. It shows that they wanted to make a search engine that gave information freely and without restriction. And they wanted the search engine to offer users the best websites. It should not be possible for rich companies to influence the results of a search - to get their own web pages near the top of the list. Even now, Google’s normal results are not for sale. Companies can influence only the sponsored links.

Voice 2 

For the normal results Brin and Page developed a method of judging web pages. The method decides which pages are the most useful to the person making the search. This is called ‘ranking’. Google’s ranking method uses a set of rules to make this judgement. A set of rules used in this way is called an ‘algorithm’. Older search engines used simple algorithms. For example, they counted the number of times the target word appeared on a web page. But the Google algorithm also looks at the links leading from one page to another on the Internet - the hyperlinks.

Voice 1 

In effect, the algorithm says to itself, ‘If lots of other pages on the Internet link to this page, then this page is probably important’. The algorithm would link such a page near the top of its list. Algorithms like this use fixed mathematical rules to make the rankings. No human is involved. So Google believes that its ranking is fair. Google has a company saying. It hangs on a sign in their office. It says ‘Don’t be evil’.

Voice 2 

As Google’s business has expanded, they have also had some problems. Some people say that the company does not follow its own saying. Experts have criticized Google’s privacy policies. They say that Google collects too much information about people. The Google search engines follow how a person uses the search program. This affects the search results. So one person may not see the same results as another person. This is true even if they search for the same things. Other experts criticize Google for working too much with governments. Google has been willing to control and block particular kinds of information in particular places. However, this has not stopped most people from using Google!

Voice 1 

There is something that Brin and Page probably did not know when they invented Google. Their algorithm works a little like the way the human brain works. Our brain cells, our neurons, link to one another. Our thoughts and memories form by the way these millions of neurons link. When we learn, new links form between the neurons. Our strongest memories form where there are the most links. So you could say that the highest ranked pages in a Google search are like our strongest memories. Both depend on links.

Voice 2 

So, nature had it first! There is a famous saying for situations like this, ‘There is nothing new under the sun’ [Ecclesiastes 1:9]. We find that saying in many languages because it is from the Bible. And the Bible would also agree with the Google company saying, ‘Don’t be evil’ [1 Peter 1:14].

Voice 1 

Now there is something to consider the next time you use Google!

Voice 2 

The writer of this program was Mike Procter. The producer was Rena Dam. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. All quotes were adapted and voiced by Spotlight. You can find our programs on the internet at This program is called ‘Searching on Google’.

Voice 1 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.


Google says they aim to "Do no evil". Do you think this is possible? Do you think they achieve this goal?


Avatar Spotlight
said on June 05, 2012

Google is the best ever company in my heart. I just studied about the Google’s raking algorithm. It is really smart. I’ve still been following up them. They have been changing day by day. Nowadays they have been providing us so many softwares, utilities and free services. Most of them are mostly perfect. However, surely we have concerns about our information privacy. But i dont think it is Google’s faults. If you dont want your information to be trick, just manage it by yourself. Google is the only company providing free services to everyone to make our world easier and closer to live. I believe in Google in the future. With the rapid innovation of technologies, Google surely will be the most successful company but freely served people all around the world. Thanks,

humble71's avatar
said on June 12, 2012

Interesting invent, the most important is free, but there’s something it’s not clear and is the private policies with users. They don’t earn money working hard only they work with software ..unbelievable.. I hope the owners can apply their quote ” don’t be evil”
Valuable information about the creation of google - motor search- Thanks a lot

Friendly hugs to all the membres of Spotlight

Quito, Ecuador

Avatar Spotlight
said on August 03, 2013

Thank you vor this material.

Avatar Spotlight
said on February 02, 2014

I’m from turkey and ı love spotlight a lot.Thank you for everything :D

Avatar Spotlight
said on February 24, 2015

Nice to meet you, thanks google :)
i’m from Vietnam

Avatar Spotlight
said on February 25, 2015

Someone help me explain meaning of ” Do no evil” i don’t understand about it. Google is very important search engine in the life. I use it everyday for searching information in my job. Google has an operating system android for mobile phone. It is very popular for user and there are a lot of other products of google make us change the life.

Learning Everything's avatar
Learning Everything
said on February 26, 2015

Google search is a close friend with everyone around the world. We can find everything on Google. Even some people were lost by war, so they use Google. Student does not understand clearly a exercise, they also search on Google…

E-marketing are using Google search such as a tool to make money, they sale or buy a product or service… Almost they use it.

However Google search still not forbid or stop a website includes sex, porn picture and film. If Google do it that is expecting a lot of parents.

Thanks Sportlight.

Avatar Spotlight
said on February 27, 2015

Thanks Google so much! I can find spotlightenglish by Google

Avatar Spotlight
said on February 28, 2015

google´s search engine is important way to research
I use for that only , but all depend of the person that they wanted.
The useful of this tecnology is to learn and explore all areas of knowing.

good topic
blessings on you

Avatar Spotlight
said on March 02, 2015

Google has made a great work in the internet worl. I used to use Altavşsta and Yahoo at the early stages of internet. Today, noone around me uses these search engines except Google…it s amazing and great..the success totally depends on how they do something different. So today they are dominating the market and the leaders…
They do this with their motto, “don’t be evil!”

Kaleb Kolaibi's avatar
Kaleb Kolaibi
said on May 25, 2016

I think that Google made a great service for world. Any evil is become from users non Google.
I,m useing Google services, searching and email ... Etc everyday.
Thanks Google sooooo much.

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on May 26, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight program
Subject: answer to the question above
Date: Thursday 26, May 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Robin Basselin, Rena Dam, and Mike Procter:

First of all, I want to thank you to produce and to bring us readers and learners of English more one great article. Thanks!
Yes, I think so. Because google is an excellent tool to search everything that you want to. So, everybody should use google in the best way to search everything that you want to. Yes, I think so. I like so much google tool to search everything that I have doubt. For example: I study English alone at home with spotlight on my computer. Also, I take out my doubts with google when I do not know the meaning of some words. Besides, I read my grammar books and I do a lot of exercises to memorize the information about the topic grammar. Therefore, Google tool has helped so much to find the information in which I have doubt. Thank you Spotlight and Google to help me.

Yours regards,
Severino Ramos

Avatar Spotlight
said on May 27, 2016

i think it’s possible to achieve this goal (see Linux, they could make money and they do not) they chose to make money by selling spaces, it’s already “do evil” compare to their ideology from the start !   
I do not use Google because Google collects too much information about people. I use startpage… 

Avatar Spotlight
said on July 18, 2018

Naturally, while using Internet we search Google program almost automatically in order to seek and find whatever needful information or matter of interest. I suppose we can really compare Google to the human brain because it has become the universal adviser, helper of many people around the world nowadays.

Avatar Spotlight
Ho Trong Toan
said on July 19, 2018

Many thanks to Spotlightenglish for a very interesting eposide.
I always use GG and feel grateful because it is very useful and free. But sometimes I concern about that like Facebook, GG gradually collect our personal information through the way we interact on it.
Someday i suddent realise that GG may understand myself more than I do ^_^ It is a scary thing.

Avatar Spotlight
said on July 20, 2018

Yes! I think Google will achieve his goal. Of course, many people do not believe on the sincerity of these words, but I have no reason for disbelieve them. Google is a powerful tool for people like me who think every day is a day to learn something.

Avatar Spotlight
said on October 01, 2018

Google’s algorithm(page rank using hyperlinks) is perfect. If they tried some evil thing(advertisement?), the search result would same to all people, but it’s different. They may achieved that goal

Avatar Spotlight
said on October 01, 2018

In korea, we usually compare google with ‘naver’. ‘naver’ is popular searching machine in korea. hahahahahahahahahahahaha.