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Google’s Code is God

Mark Mzyk | January 4, 2008

Jeff Jarvis recently posted a blog post provocatively titled Google is God. It provides lots of interesting stats on the search giant.

Some of the stats given:

  • Google controls 65.1% of all searches in the U.S. at the end of 2007 and 86% of all searches in the UK, according to measurement company Hitwise.
  • Google was searched 4.4 billion times in the U.S. alone in October, 2007 (three times Yahoo), says Nielsen. Average searches per searcher: 40.7.
  • Google’s sites had 112 million U.S. visitors in November, 2007, says Nielsen.
  •  Google employed almost 16,000 people at the end of 2007, a 50% increase over the year before.

What does this tell me?  It tells me a lot of the Western world relies on Google.  But not Google the corporation, instead the Western world relies on Google the code.  The Google code is well oiled enough that if the company folded tomorrow, but its servers remained operational, most of us would probably still use Google until the power was cut.

What else can we see from this?  Well, my guess is Google runs on Linux (when Google doesn’t run on its own code).  So if Google’s code is a god, then Linux must be a Titan.  Open Source is the Mount Olympus of it all.

Of course, no one fears Olympus.  No need to fear the Titans, they were conquered long ago.  But a god still has the power to condemn us to Hell (if I’m allowed to mix my Greek Mythology metaphor with a bit of modern day religion).  As long as Google remains a black box, it will be a god that is feared, while also being worshiped.  That’s simply how it works.

Notice I bolded one fact about Google.  Google employed almost 16,000 people at the end of 2007, a 50% increase over the year before.

Ponder that for a moment.  That growth is astronomical.  But it also tells me something.  If you hire 8,000 people in a year, how can you ever hope to only hire only the best and the brightest, as I’ve heard is Google’s goal?  Some mediocre, and even poor, employees must slip through the process.  Like everything else, this has implications.  Google is now huge – and so must its code base be.  The amount of code produced at Google is probably increasing linearly, if not exponentially at this point.  And quality is probably dropping like a rock.

Not all at once – it might take a while before we ever notice, but I bet there is grumbling going on at Google behind closed doors about maintaining all of that.  It can’t all be beautiful code.  The odds don’t allow it.  One day, the cracks will start to show through the facade.

Google’s code might not achieve sentience, but it is already a god.  It controls a lot of what I do on the net, and it now controls 16,000 people full time.  How many more might it enslave this year?  And how long can it last as a god, before it to is conquered, just like the Titans?  Think of the previous gods: Microsoft, IBM, the list goes on and on.

Filed in: General.


  1. Comment by Bryan:

    “Well, my guess is Google runs on Linux (when Google doesn’t run on its own code). So if Google’s code is a god, then Linux must be a Titan. Open Source is the Mount Olympus of it all.”

    You can’t just make stuff up! Where did you get the idea that Google runs on linux? Last I checked Google’s OS was based on BSD, which is NOT open source.

    January 4, 2008 @ 15:42
  2. Comment by Kevin Smith:

    Ummm, yeah. Your comment has two factual errors:

    1) BSD is open-source. Maybe not to the Stallmanites, but to the rest of the world the BSD license is a completely valid open source license.

    2) To the best of my knowledge, and I’m not a Googler, Google uses Linux extensively. Why else have they hired two high-profile Linux kernel hackers, Robert Love and Andrew Morton, in the past year? A quick Google search reveals this link:


    which seems to back up Mark’s article and the common wisdom as well.

    January 4, 2008 @ 16:22
  3. Comment by Mark:


    I don’t believe I made anything up. I do admit to being a bit lazy, because I did not try to verify that Google did run on Linux, but instead went with my intuition. However, I also feel that I was in my right to do that, as it is clear that what I wrote was not presenting any facts. I clearly wrote, as you quoted, “my guess”.

    Also, I attempted to verify that Google runs off of BSD after seeing your comment, but could not find a reference verifying this, while a search did reveal that Google does use Linux, as Kevin pointed out. If you have a link to back up your claims, then please share them, as I’m more than curious.

    January 4, 2008 @ 22:08
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    February 7, 2008 @ 20:33
  5. Comment by bearded weirdie:

    all the same kind of things that are now being said about Google have been said about Microsoft, and before that (in the 1960s) about IBM. Each time a colossus seems to reach that position of all-enveloping power it has proved in retrospect to be the moment before the next great innovation by-passes it.

    August 19, 2008 @ 08:41
  6. Comment by Mark:

    @bearded weirdie

    I agree with that, but I think the question this time is will Google just buy up all of the next great innovations?

    If that happens, then all the obvious and some what obvious innovations won’t make it to the point of over taking Google – it will take someone that doesn’t appear to compete with Google over taking Google.

    Here’s a thought: Amazon has done a lot of diversification lately – will they perhaps one day over take Google? Or Apple? Maybe the next Google is already a large company that we all already know and not the surprise small startup.

    August 19, 2008 @ 09:10