Posted: 10 Oct 2019 07:49 AM PDT
On Sept. 27, Google turned 21. The tech giant has a lot to celebrate after more than two decades in business: It's one of the world's most visited websites and its name is so popular it's been deemed a verb in the English dictionary (No, seriously — Google it!).
Google's success since going public has turned out to be a positive for shareholders. A $1,000 investment in 2009 would be worth more than $4,800 as of Oct. 2, 2019, for a total return of around 400%, according to CNBC calculations. In the same time frame, by comparison, the S&P 500 earned a total return of just more than 250%. The company, which went public in 2004, has a current share price around $1,200.
While Google's shares have done well over the years, any individual stock can over- or underperform and past returns do not predict future results. It's important to note that Google is actually now called Alphabet. This change took place in 2015 as a way of reorganizing the company and its growing number of businesses beyond search. GOOGL, as it's shown in the chart below, is a stock ticker symbol for Alphabet, Google's parent company.
CNBC: Google's stock since 2009.
How Google got its start
Google was founded in 1998 by two Stanford Ph.D. students, Sergey Brin and Larry Page. The pair wrote and published a paper about developing a "prototype of a large-scale search engine," which became the first iteration of the Google we know today.
At first, Brin and Page operated Google out of a tight garage space in Menlo Park, California. But by spring of 1999, they moved into a proper office space in Palo Alto, California. The company relocated again in 2004 to a complex of buildings in Mountain View, California, now known as "Googleplex."
In 1999, Google earned $220,000 in annual revenue. Four years later, in 2003, it brought it nearly $1 billion, earning the title of "Fastest Growing Tech Company in North America," according to Deloitte's 2004 Technology Fast 500 ranking.
Google's expansion over time
Google's rapid growth opened up major doors for expanding the business. In 2001, Page and Brin hired Eric Schmidt as Google's CEO to help them grow the company. With Schmidt in charge, Google quickly expanded beyond its core identity as a search engine.
In 2003, Google launched AdSense, an advertising program used by website publishers to target users. Venturing into the advertising space has proved profitable for Google, with 85% of its total revenue is still generated by advertising tech.
Google acquired smartphone platform Android in 2005 and added YouTube to its portfolio in 2006. The company also bought Motorola Mobility in 2011 to step up its smartphone production process and smartphone navigation app Waze in 2013. It total, Google has acquired more than 200 businesses, and by 2010, it was purchasing companies at an average pace of two per month.
Under Schmidt's leadership, Google also went public on Aug. 19, 2004, and raised $1.67 billion with a share price of $85. Not only was its debut on Wall Street one of the biggest the tech sector had ever seen, but it also drew attention to the company and helped garner new Google users.
From a user perspective, Google has found a way to touch nearly every part of the online experience, including its branded productivity services, such as Google Docs, Google Sheets, Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive and more.
And don't forget about Google Chrome, which launched in 2008 as the company's take on the traditional browser. As of 2017, Chrome surpassed competitors, including Internet Explorer, Safari and Mozilla Firefox, in popularity with 44.5% market margins. In second place, Safari garnered just 25.4% of visitors.
As of 2017, Chrome surpassed competitors, including Internet Explorer, Safari and Mozilla Firefox, in popularity with 44.5% market margins.
By the fall of 2015, the Silicon Valley-based tech giant made the decision to restructure. Its new parent company was named Alphabet, and Google became its main subsidiary. The reorganization separated out profitable businesses from more ambitious, experimental ones, which served as a way to protect investors while still allowing for innovation.
That same year, Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice president in charge of products, took over as CEO.
Google's restructuring proved successful. By 2018, the creation of Alphabet increased Google's stock price by more than 85% and revenue for Alphabet's other subsidiaries rose nearly 50% year over year.
The latest on Google
Google will host a press event in New York City on Oct. 15, 2019, where it's expected to reveal more details regarding the new Pixel 4 phone. Ahead of the event, new pictures have surfaced of the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, which is set to be the first phone users can unlock simply by looking at it.
Along with Facebook and Amazon, Google has also recently received criticism over its privacy practices when it comes to data management. As a result, Google is taking steps to secure user information, including plans to roll out new privacy features in Maps, YouTube and Voice Assistant services, Google said.
It's not just data security Google, Facebook and Amazon have come under fire for. The tech trio will have to answer congressional questions in late October or early November regarding the potential impact they've had on the well-being of small businesses, Bloomberg reported.
It's still up in the air whether these antitrust investigations will negatively impact Alphabet's stock. Despite beating expectations for its second quarter, the shares dropped more than 6% in June after the Justice Department announced plans to look into Google's search practices.
If you are considering getting into investing, experts such as Warren Buffett often advise starting with index funds, which hold groups of stocks, such as names from the S&P 500. Since index funds fluctuate with the market, they're less risky than individual stocks, making them a safer choice for beginners.
Buffett has also been known to give two general pieces of advice to investors. First, he says to invest in companies that have long-term value. Second, he advises investing in businesses you understand. In his annual shareholders' letter from 1996, Buffet wrote: "What an investor needs is the ability to correctly evaluate selected businesses. Note that word 'selected': You don't have to be an expert on every company, or even many. You only have to be able to evaluate companies within your circle of competence."
Here's a snapshot of how the markets look now.
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Posted: 03 Aug 2019 12:00 AM PDT
If you're a creative or other freelancer work, at some point you may start thinking twice about giving out your personal phone number to your clients or business contacts. Besides the possible privacy issues, do you really want your business connections to be able to call you at any hour of the day or night — and on the same number you give your family and friends? A new service called OpenPhone says it can solve that problem by providing cloud-based business numbers for $10 per month.
There are, of course, several cloud-based services that provide secondary phone numbers which can be used alongside your primary carrier-based number. To begin with, there is Google Voice, probably the best-known such service, which gives you a phone number that is associated your Google account. Voice has been available from Google since 2009 (when the original service, GrandCentral, was acquired), and is still free; however, it hasn't undergone a whole lot of updating since. Other services, such as Hushed and Burner, also provide separate phone numbers for reasonably low fees; they market themselves as alternatives for users who want temporary, easily deleted numbers.
OpenPhone, on the other hand, is pushing itself as a resource for independent workers or small businesses that want to separate their business and personal calls and texts. It distinguishes itself from Google Voice by touting its customer support, the availability of toll-free numbers, and the ability to have more than one number per phone. It is currently only available in the US and Canada.
How to register for OpenPhone
To begin with, you get to choose a phone number. You can select any US or Canada area code; be aware that some codes will offer more choices than others. You can also, if you want, choose a toll-free number, or even try to find a number with a word embedded in it — I was able to find a number that had "0GYM" as its last four characters.
Once you've chosen a phone number, you create an account, and verify it with your phone's carrier number (you can't use another VoIP number, such as Google Voice). You then have the option of providing your company name, number of employees and which industry you're in. (If you're just registering as an individual, you can skip this step.)
OpenPhone offers a seven-day free trial, although you do have to provide your credit card data in order to sign up. After the trial, OpenPhone costs $10 per month for an Individual account. A Team account, which costs $15 a month, adds a dedicated account manager and priority support.
And then, if you haven't already, you download the app to your phone, and you're ready to go.
A nicely simple UI
The interface is almost Spartan in its simplicity. The home page lists your recently-used contacts. If the person you want to contact isn't there, you can swipe left to tap in the phone number, or swipe right for the features list, which includes access to your contact list.
OpenPhone has its own contact list, which you can sync with your phone's. Once you've chosen the person you want to contact, you simply use the field at the bottom of the screen to send a text or the phone icon on the upper right to make a call. Records of phone calls and text messages for each contact are all on the same screen, making it simple to see all your previous conversations. You can also (via a menu) copy the number, block it or delete the conversation.
The apps has several nice options. One is the ability to set business hours; calls that come outside of your set hours will go straight to voicemail, and you can record a separate voicemail for those hours (such as "Our office is currently closed, but leave a message, and someone will call you back in the morning"). You can also forward calls to another number if, for example, you are going on vacation and want someone else to get the calls. A "Do Not Disturb" feature lets you temporarily mute calls.
You can have as many as five phone numbers associated with your carrier number (Google Voice only allows one). It's very easy to request another number straight from the features menu, but be aware that you'll pay $9.99 for each additional number.
I tried out OpenPhone and found that service worked perfectly well. In fact, the quality of the voice calls, using an internet connection, was better on my end than my usual Google Voice calls.
Can still be glitchy
Anyone trying out this service should be aware that it is still very new, and this shows. To begin with, the feature set is still a bit tentative. One example: OpenPhone boasts that it lets you you can link your OpenPhone number to your phone carrier rather than Wi-Fi or your data plan. However, there are still so many restrictions attached to this method that it's not really viable: you can't make outgoing calls, you can't attach more than one number to your carrier number, and it's only available for iOS phones.
In addition, there were a few coding glitches that popped up here and there. After my couple of calls, the names of the two contacts I had recently contacted were garbled together on the main page. Once I closed and opened the app, that resolved itself; still, something like that is a sign of an app still in development.
There are other cloud-based business solutions out there with more features, but they tend to charge $30 / month per user or more. For freelancers and startups, OpenPhone could be a good way to provide yourself with a separate business line. Just be aware that, since it's a startup, there could be an occasional hiccup along the way.
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