It’s astonishing that Google, which celebrated becoming adulthood on September 27, needed just 18 years to reach a market worth more than $530 billion. Remembering how the search engine has altered life as we know it may be even more remarkable. In 1998, Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google in their dorm at Stanford University. Later, campus administrators urged them to establish a legitimate office after the Stanford IT department complained that Page and Brin’s were using up all the university’s bandwidth. Google is currently a division of its parent company Alphabet Inc.

Google is an energising place to be, democratising information access and bringing the real world online. Following the invention of the printing press, steel magnate Andrew Carnegie was responsible for the first significant democratisation of information access. In the late 19th century, he became the wealthiest man in the world. He then gave everything away, contributing $60 million to support 1,689 public libraries across the US. I think Google boosted Carnegie’s idea of making information accessible to everyone by building a virtual library resembling those seen in science fiction films only a decade earlier, in 1998.

In contrast to previously curated sources like LexisNexis or Yahoo!, Google indexed the Internet exceptionally well without human intervention and in a way that did not require the user to be familiar with the index or Boolean search techniques. Free word or term searches made possible by Google made all kinds of information instantly accessible, even if you had no idea where it was kept. You could always use Google to find a needle in a haystack. Accessing such data has been an excellent equaliser since it allows anyone to empower themselves with knowledge before seeing a doctor or submitting an application for housing, employment, or government aid.