Google’s mission, according to its corporate web site, is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”. This may be their purpose, but they are financing this goal by dominating the long tail of the world wide web. Through its network of web properties, web applications and services, Google is brilliantly plotting to virtually own your online eye-time.
In a span of only 10 years, Google has grown from the graduate-level computer science project of Larry Page and Sergey Brin into the most valuable and pervasive network of properties and technologies on the world wide web.
Google’s properties include Google Search, Gmail, Google Reader, Google Code, Google Apps Partner Edition, iGoogle, Google Sites, YouTube, Maps, News, Shopping Groups, Books, Scholar, Finance, Blogger and too many others to list. There is scarcely a web site that Google does not touch in some way, whether it be via AdWords, AdSense, Analytics or Search.
Additionally, through the acquisition of technologies such as Urchin (now Google Analytics) and DoubleClick, Google is able to study how web users spend their time online, and position relevant advertising alongside nearly every piece of information that travels across the world wide web.
Google is also greatly extending its reach by offering a re-brandable version of Google Apps to Internet Service Providers, businesses, educational institutions and non-profit organizations. This strategic move allows Google to to expand its empire by offering improved infrastructure to the barbarians like the Romans did two thousand years ago.
Six Degrees of Google
In his book “Linked”, Albert-László Barabási explores the ideas of Graph Theory as they apply to various types of networks. An example of Graph Theory at work is the popular game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon in which a player picks any random or obscure actor and another tries to connect them to Kevin Bacon is 6 links or less.Barabási explains, using Graph Theory, that there is nothing particularly unusual about Kevin Bacon’s position in Hollywood circles. In fact all entities or nodes in a given network are connected to all others by an astonishingly small number of links. For instance,Barabási found that every web page is connected to every other one of the billions of pages on the world wide web by an average of only 19 links or degrees of separation.
The close connection between all nodes in a graph, as Barabási explains, is possible due to what are known as Super Nodes, or nodes that have a very large number of links to other nodes. Super Nodes, within any graph, are the most important nodes because they connect all the others and shorten the distance between any two smaller nodes. This concept is exactly what Larry Page stumbled upon when he created the idea of PageRank. Web pages or web sites with the most links are the super nodes of the world wide web. Google is arguably the largest of the super nodes on the world wide web. If the world wide web has a center, it is likely to be Google.
Google has discovered, however, that it can extend beyond being a super node to which all other nodes connect. By disseminating itself in the form of Analytics, AdSense, and AdWords, it can become part of every other node.
When Larry Page and Sergey Brin were negotiating with Wall Street underwriters to take Google public, there were many business experts who could not understand how their business model made money – or sense for that matter. These experts, if you will pardon the pun, were rather short-sighted and missed the fact that Google is able to make money by what is known as the long tail, or selling a large number of items in small quantities.
In his book titled The Long Tail, Chris Anderson explains how a study of music downloads on Rhapsody demonstrates the long tail phenomenon. Mr. Anderson found that though the blockbuster hits, which account for 20% of music titles, may enjoy millions of downloads, the remaining 80% of titles or non-hits, when added together, account for a much larger volume of online music sales.
Google has masterfully positioned itself, through its vast network of online properties and tools and extensive reach, to capitalize on the long tail by earning a few pennies from the mouse clicks of billions of web users. The long tail applies to Google’s model because each text ad may only be clicked a few times, but there are many millions of ads and many billions of clicks.
All roads, as the saying goes, may lead to Rome, but on the world wide web, all nodes – and mouse clicks – lead to Google.
 Barabási, Albert-László. 2003. “Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life.” New York: Plume.
 Vise, David A., and Mark Malseed. The Google Story: Inside the Hottest Business, Media and Technology Success of Our Time. Paperback ed. Dell Pub., 2006.
 Anderson, Chris (2006). The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 1-4013-0237-8.