Click here to close now.




















Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Pat Romanski, Carmen Gonzalez, Greg O'Connor, Dana Gardner

Related Topics: API Journal, Agile Computing

API Journal: Article

"To Google" Is Officially a Verb: A Behind-the-Scenes History

The 11th edition of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary includes “googling” (lower case g)

Doug Edwards' Xooglers Blog
[Originally posted Monday, July 10, 2006]

Googling has officially become a verb. The 11th edition of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary now includes “googling” (lower case g). Actually the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) beat them to the punch a month ago by listing Google (upper case g) in their authoritative lexicon of the English language. It’s about time. People have been using Google as a verb for years, despite protestations by the company (many of which I authored myself) about the genericization of the trademarked name.

Having your brand name used as a generic term, is of course, a mixed blessing for a company. On the one hand, it’s great to have your name become the common shorthand for an entire category. It implies acceptance that your product is the standard by which all others in the category are judged and it’s great word-of-mouth for building awareness and trial.

On the other hand, you want to protect your trademark and it’s difficult to do that if overuse dilutes its connection to your product. If Google becomes synonymous with “searching the internet” without a connection to the specific service offered by Google Inc. at www.google.com, then anyone can offer a way to “google for information.” Say, for example, Microsoft. They could offer an MSN google box if Google’s trademark on the name were to be revoked through genericide.

And so, companies like Google are forced to write letters to those who misuse their trademark as a verb (verbs cannot be trademarked). If they don’t, the US Patent and Trademark Office may decide that the company is no longer interested in maintaining ownership of its trademarked term.

The whole process is silly and goes against the dynamic nature of language and is about as effective as standing in a rising river and yelling at the rain to stop falling. Everyone knows people will use words the way they want to. That’s how languages avoid dying. As an English major and frequent abuser of grammar as an advertising copywriter, I always felt hypocritical playing enforcer, but the law was pretty clear. So letters were sent when we saw our trademark being incorrectly applied.

We’d work with TV shows that wanted to include references to Google and request that they not use it as a verb (they usually ignored us). We’d ask reporters not to promote incorrect usage and we’d keep an eye on the most important of all agents in the battle for trademark protection: lexicographers.

Once an editor defines a word in a dictionary, it carries a lot of weight in the courts as they decide whether a word is still a trademark or has become a more general term. So, we tried to forestall the official definition of Google as something other than our proprietary service.

In early 2003, the website Wordspy included Google as a neologism, without specifically tying it to Google Technology Inc (the formal name of the company at that time). So, our legal department sent them a letter. The note was a typically polite, but direct, request that Wordspy cease and desist their use of Google in an improper fashion. It didn’t threaten legal action, but simply asked that Wordspy, “help us to protect our brand by deleting the definition of "google" found at wordspy.com or revising it to take into account the trademark status of Google.”

When the publisher of Wordspy posted the letter on his site, some people inside and outside of the Googleplex got upset about Google having turned into a heavy-handed monopolistic oppressor of the weak and downtrodden. This happened with disturbing regularity. Apparently a certain percentage of any set group of people looks for signs that companies with sterling reputations are actually fronting for Satan. And of course, with Google’s “Don’t be evil” motto hanging on its back like a “kick me” sign, the company got cut very little slack.

The internal controversy led to seminars on what constituted a trademark and discussion about whether we violated our own rules by offering onesies for infants that said "I Google" and by signing our customer service emails with "Keep on Googlin'."

Slashdot picked up the Wordspy story, which meant it quickly spread through the geek community. To be fair, most of the comments on the original post accurately reflected the nature of Google’s predicament. Still, the hate mail began pouring in and we scrambled to smooth our users’ ruffled feathers.

Just as that furor was calming down, we heard a rumor that the OED was going to include Google in their next edition. Given their prominence, we couldn’t afford to sit back and hope for the best. I worked with Rose in legal to write a letter that took on more of an advisory than adversarial tone. It turned out to be a false alarm as Google had not yet attained the level of awareness it has today and the editors of the OED were not ready to acknowledge it formally. We did receive assurances that the OED staff understood the nature of trademarks and were sensitive to the issues involved in defining a trademark term.


Doug's History of Protecting "Google" Continues on the Next Page


[This post appeared originally here on July 10, 2006, and is republished here in full by kind permission of the author, who retains full copyright.]

More Stories By Doug Edwards

From 1999 to 2005, Doug Edwards was was director of consumer marketing and brand management for Google. Other work experience includes stints as online brand group manager for the San Jose Mercury News, communications director for KQED FM, admission officer for Brown University and Novosibirsk correspondent for the public radio program Marketplace. He blogs at http://xooglers.com, a gathering spot for ex-Googlers to reminisce and comment on the latest developments in search.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo, November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be.
Containers are not new, but renewed commitments to performance, flexibility, and agility have propelled them to the top of the agenda today. By working without the need for virtualization and its overhead, containers are seen as the perfect way to deploy apps and services across multiple clouds. Containers can handle anything from file types to operating systems and services, including microservices. What are microservices? Unlike what the name implies, microservices are not necessarily small, but are focused on specific tasks. The ability for developers to deploy multiple containers – thous...
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome,” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
The 3rd International WebRTC Summit, to be held Nov. 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Topics include all aspects of improving IT delivery by eliminating waste through automated business models leveraging cloud technologies. WebRTC Summit is co-located with 15th International Cloud Expo, 6th International Big Data Expo, 3rd International DevOps Summit and 2nd Internet of @ThingsExpo. WebRTC (Web-based Real-Time Communication) is an open source project supported by Google, Mozilla and Opera that aims to enable bro...
As more and more data is generated from a variety of connected devices, the need to get insights from this data and predict future behavior and trends is increasingly essential for businesses. Real-time stream processing is needed in a variety of different industries such as Manufacturing, Oil and Gas, Automobile, Finance, Online Retail, Smart Grids, and Healthcare. Azure Stream Analytics is a fully managed distributed stream computation service that provides low latency, scalable processing of streaming data in the cloud with an enterprise grade SLA. It features built-in integration with Azur...
With the proliferation of connected devices underpinning new Internet of Things systems, Brandon Schulz, Director of Luxoft IoT – Retail, will be looking at the transformation of the retail customer experience in brick and mortar stores in his session at @ThingsExpo. Questions he will address include: Will beacons drop to the wayside like QR codes, or be a proximity-based profit driver? How will the customer experience change in stores of all types when everything can be instrumented and analyzed? As an area of investment, how might a retail company move towards an innovation methodolo...
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
SYS-CON Events announced today the Containers & Microservices Bootcamp, being held November 3-4, 2015, in conjunction with 17th Cloud Expo, @ThingsExpo, and @DevOpsSummit at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. This is your chance to get started with the latest technology in the industry. Combined with real-world scenarios and use cases, the Containers and Microservices Bootcamp, led by Janakiram MSV, a Microsoft Regional Director, will include presentations as well as hands-on demos and comprehensive walkthroughs.
Contrary to mainstream media attention, the multiple possibilities of how consumer IoT will transform our everyday lives aren’t the only angle of this headline-gaining trend. There’s a huge opportunity for “industrial IoT” and “Smart Cities” to impact the world in the same capacity – especially during critical situations. For example, a community water dam that needs to release water can leverage embedded critical communications logic to alert the appropriate individuals, on the right device, as soon as they are needed to take action.
WebRTC services have already permeated corporate communications in the form of videoconferencing solutions. However, WebRTC has the potential of going beyond and catalyzing a new class of services providing more than calls with capabilities such as mass-scale real-time media broadcasting, enriched and augmented video, person-to-machine and machine-to-machine communications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Luis Lopez, CEO of Kurento, will introduce the technologies required for implementing these ideas and some early experiments performed in the Kurento open source software community in areas ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies leverage disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advanced analytics, and DevOps to advance innovation and increase agility. Specializing in designing, imple...
Consumer IoT applications provide data about the user that just doesn’t exist in traditional PC or mobile web applications. This rich data, or “context,” enables the highly personalized consumer experiences that characterize many consumer IoT apps. This same data is also providing brands with unprecedented insight into how their connected products are being used, while, at the same time, powering highly targeted engagement and marketing opportunities. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nathan Treloar, President and COO of Bebaio, will explore examples of brands transforming their businesses by t...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lee Williams, a producer of the first smartphones and tablets, will talk about how he is now applying his experience in mobile technology to the design and development of the next generation of Environmental and Sustainability Services at ETwater. He will explain how M2M controllers work through wirelessly connected remote controls; and specifically delve into a retrofit option that reverse-engineers control codes of existing conventional controller systems so they don't have to be replaced and are instantly converted to become smart, connected devices.
With the Apple Watch making its way onto wrists all over the world, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a staple in the workplace. In fact, Forrester reported that 68 percent of technology and business decision-makers characterize wearables as a top priority for 2015. Recognizing their business value early on, FinancialForce.com was the first to bring ERP to wearables, helping streamline communication across front and back office functions. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kevin Roberts, GM of Platform at FinancialForce.com, will discuss the value of business applications on wearable ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Micron Technology, Inc., a global leader in advanced semiconductor systems, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Micron’s broad portfolio of high-performance memory technologies – including DRAM, NAND and NOR Flash – is the basis for solid state drives, modules, multichip packages and other system solutions. Backed by more than 35 years of technology leadership, Micron's memory solutions enable the world's most innovative computing, consumer,...
17th Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterprises are using some form of XaaS – software, platform, and infrastructure as a service.
As more intelligent IoT applications shift into gear, they’re merging into the ever-increasing traffic flow of the Internet. It won’t be long before we experience bottlenecks, as IoT traffic peaks during rush hours. Organizations that are unprepared will find themselves by the side of the road unable to cross back into the fast lane. As billions of new devices begin to communicate and exchange data – will your infrastructure be scalable enough to handle this new interconnected world?
While many app developers are comfortable building apps for the smartphone, there is a whole new world out there. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Narayan Sainaney, Co-founder and CTO of Mojio, will discuss how the business case for connected car apps is growing and, with open platform companies having already done the heavy lifting, there really is no barrier to entry.
SYS-CON Events announced today that the "Second Containers & Microservices Expo" will take place November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Containers and microservices have become topics of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities.
Manufacturing connected IoT versions of traditional products requires more than multiple deep technology skills. It also requires a shift in mindset, to realize that connected, sensor-enabled “things” act more like services than what we usually think of as products. In his session at @ThingsExpo, David Friedman, CEO and co-founder of Ayla Networks, will discuss how when sensors start generating detailed real-world data about products and how they’re being used, smart manufacturers can use the data to create additional revenue streams, such as improved warranties or premium features. Or slash...