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Google Turns 10

Did you get invited to Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) 10th birthday party? No? Me, neither, but we may as well celebrate. Tomorrow marks the 10th anniversary of the registration of the domain name. Maybe it's a premature soiree. There wasn't a lot to on Sept. 15, 1997. The search engine launched shortly afterward, the company wasn't incorporated until a year later, and the much-ballyhooed IPO didn't come for another seven years.

However, that humble domain name obviously marked the start of something great. In just 10 years, Google has become the global leader in online advertising, and a menace to any company trying to matter in the search space. This company generated $3.1 billion in profit last year, on a robust $10.6 billion in revenue.

Google is a part of any Internet user's life. Even if you've entirely avoided the landing page over the years -- and if you are, the Smithsonian wants you -- you've probably come across Google's network of content-targeted ads, which wallpaper the Web via its Google AdSense program. If not, there's a YouTube video with your name on it.

Google doesn't have to turn 10 to earn your respect, though. It was just seven when Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) huddled its key executives in a summit simply titled "The Google Challenge," to address the one company the House of Gates fears more than any software or PC maker.

That's intimidation. That's respect. That's Big G.

Party on, G
So if I'm all set on attending a party that even Google doesn't know it's throwing, I may as well offer up a few party games to keep things interesting. Let me know how you feel about some of these:

  • Pin the tail on the Yahoo!
    Google has humbled Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) since going public, perpetually gaining market share at its search rival's expense. Thankfully for the other major Internet search site, Yahoo!'s got some neat things cooking up to hopefully end this degrading game.

  • Musical Shares
    Google's rise began with its algorithmically superior search engine. After that, Big G became a webmaster darling, offering brainless monetization through its AdSense contextual marketing program. Google's cut of the resulting ad revenue accounted for 35% of Google's top line this past quarter (though far less of the bottom-line profit).

  • Hot Potato
    Doesn't the company always seem to be riding all of the hot trends? It bought Blogger before blogging was cool. It sees companies like (NYSE: CRM  ) making waves with Web-based applications, so it rolls out its own suite of apps. When it saw that it was late to the video-sharing craze, it simply forked over $1.65 billion to buy the leader. That's hot.

  • Duck, Duck, Noose
    No party wouldn't be complete without exploring the dark side of the "do no evil" mantra. From Viacom's (NYSE: VIA  ) $1 billion lawsuit for YouTube copyright infringement, to Microsoft's accusations that Google poached a key executive in China, you're not great until others point out that you're not always great. Besides, China is one of the few places where Google isn't the top dog, as it plays in's (Nasdaq: BIDU  ) shadow.

The life of the search party
Come to think of it, limbo's just about the only party game Google hasn't whipped out yet. Its share price is certainly not bowing down, and the company's margins are hardly knee-high. Even when it comes to earnings expectations, Google's been more likely to leap over the bar than go under it. It's trounced Wall Street's numbers in all but two quarters since going public in the summer of 2004.

Happy birthday, Google. That decade went by quickly, but I don't envy the search firm now. When you're on top of the world before puberty even kicks in, it must be hard to fathom an answer to the ultimate question: "What do you want to be when you grow up?"  

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