You may remember a post a couple of weeks ago announcing that Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam, would be giving a speech at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill about lessons learned from the early days of Google.
Just recently, Cutts published the entire speech on YouTube for everyone to see. It’s a fascinating history lesson, but it’s also quite lengthy. I went through it and pulled out some of the key highlights for you.
I still recommending watching the whole video whenever you have time, but for now here are the highlights.
Highlights From Matt Cutts’ Speech At University Of North Carolina
- Matt’s early days at Google consisted of figuring out how to ‘make regular expressions faster for a string matcher’, until one day a manager came up to him and asked “how do you feel about pornography?”. That led to Matt writing the safe search version of Google.
- Google’s first major controversy was the first DMCA takedown request it had to deal with, which came from the Church of Scientology wanting to suppress a critic. In the end the page was removed and a disclaimer was added to the site about the need to legally remove a certain page from search results. That’s still how Google deals with DMCA takedown requests today.
- Matt Cutts was drafted to the advertising division at Google after expressing interest in front end programming. It was while working on ads that Matt started to notice people spamming Google and earning higher organic rankings than they deserved to. Matt then went to a VP of engineering and said he wanted to work on spam, and was given the option to do so whenever he wanted to start.
- In the early days Google ran on what Matt calls “commodity hardware”, which was very modest and inexpensive compared to what competitors like Alta Vista were using. That’s what helped them stay competitive, but the frequency at which the machines broke down led to the company refining and improving the search engine. Success was a result of hundreds of tiny innovations, Matt says.
- Matt explains some of the dark days Google went through, from lawsuits to world governments trying to tell the company what to index and not index, and says that no matter how well your company may be doing always be prepared for facing tough times.
The video cuts out right at the end of Matt’s speech, so we don’t get to hear any of the Q&A, but those are the main points from all the stories he told.