It might sound obvious to say that Google has changed the world in the 20 years since it was founded on Sept. 4, 1998. Google, and its parent companyAlphabet, is involved in everything from the development of driverless cars to disputes with President Donald Trump.
But, to James W. Cortada, author of All the Facts: A History of Information in the United States since 1870, there are also lots of ways in which Google, as the dominant search engine, hasn’t really changed anything. In the scheme of the whole history of people searching for information, its has merely continued many trends that have been happening for centuries.
One of those trends, for example, is that it’s increasingly safe to assume that any information you want to search for — the original role of Google — is out there somewhere, probably written down.
“When you learn to be literate, you learn that there’s data and information that’s organized in a logical way in something called a book. And you learn more than just what you read; you learn how information is structured,” Cortada explains. “The more people are reading, the more they’re also writing, and therefore organizing ever larger bodies of information. After a while, certainly by the 18th century, people were assuming, ‘I don’t know what the book is on this topic but I bet you there is a book out there.'” ...