April 7, 2005

labs.google.com – Why Work at Google?

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Why You Should Work at Google

Google’s mission: Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Google is an engineering company. The Google web site is powered by some amazing technology, most of it developed in-house. Yet people often ask us what we do here at Google Engineering. “What are you working on? Isn’t search a solved problem?”

Glad you asked.

We’re working on lots of interesting stuff and one of the main reasons is that search is far from a solved problem.

Let’s say you used Google to search for the topic “Michelangelo’s David”. The results page would show “Results 1-10 of about 38,800” web pages. That’s pretty helpful, but we could do so much more. Google prides itself on its algorithm for choosing the most relevant pages, but it’s a work in progress; we’re constantly finding ways to improve its selections. Plus, the top ten pages listed are all in English; surely there are some interesting web pages in Italian that we could translate for you, and chances are at least some of them deserve high ranking. Over at http://images.google.com you can find some helpful photos of the sculpture (plus some knock-offs), but there are video clips, museum guidebooks, historical articles, and many other sources of information about David that the web doesn’t reach. And it’s likely someone at the Galleria dell’Accademia has a 3-D scan of the sculpture you’d enjoy browsing. (From the search results, it’s clear that Stanford has some 3-D data too.) So yes, Google is very good at searching the web for the most relevant pages for the query you type, but that’s really only a minor subset of the true `search problem’, which remains far from solved.

And consider this. Our front page, http://www.google.com, currently reports that we search more than eight billion web pages. That’s a lot of information, but even that’s not the whole web. And even if it were, it’s still only the web; what about all the other information out there? Google’s mission is to make all the world’s information accessible, not just a subset of the web.

So you see, we have our work cut out for us. Feel like helping?

You don’t need to be an expert on searching; in fact, most of the people in our engineering group had little or no background in search technology before they came to Google. To implement a good search algorithm on the scale of the web requires ideas from just about every area of computer science, including information retrieval, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, distributed computing, large-scale system design, networking, security, data compression, user interface design; the list goes on. Or look at it this way: a typical query to Google can touch thousands of machines before returning the answer. With all those machines and all that communication, the problems can be daunting and new ideas and new technologies can always be brought to bear.

You also don’t have to be willing to move to the San Francisco Bay Area. We have engineering offices in Santa Monica; Kirkland, WA; and New York. We also have engineering centers outside the U.S., in Switzerland, India, and Japan. Each of these offices works on the same problems as in Mountain View. In fact, many Google projects have membership that spans engineering offices.

The Story So Far
The search problem is tough, but we’ve made significant progress. Besides constructing the world’s most heavily used web search engine and a lot of other public web services (www.google.com, news.google.com, images.google.com, groups.google.com, catalogs.google.com, labs.google.com, gmail.google.com, scholar.google.com, adwords.google.com), not to mention the Google Appliance and the Google Toolbar, Google Engineering has achieved a number of other milestones you may not be as familiar with:

* We designed and built an advertising system that automatically performs hundreds of millions of automated auctions per day to determine the placement and prices of advertisements appearing on Google search result pages and non-search pages on dozens of other sites.

* We built a very large scale, distributed, fault-tolerant file system, called GFS, to help manage and process huge data sets. A paper in SOSP 2003 describes the file system.

* We designed and developed a fully automatic news system (news.google.com), which has rapidly become a standard tool for human journalists. Custom algorithms group together articles about the same story from different news organizations from around the world, providing diverse viewpoints about the day’s events. Heuristics judge the importance of each story relative to other stories in the news around the world to generate our headline summary pages automatically.

* We built a searchable archive of millions of catalog pages by scanning and OCR’ing printed catalogs. This experimental service demonstrates the benefits of a searchable interface for information not previously easy to search or browse.

* We’re exploring large-scale machine learning as a means of improving search quality. Our spelling correction system is one excellent example (spehl korector? phonitick spewling? who needs a dictniary?). People searching for Britney Spears have clearly found it useful on many occasions. In more recent work, we have been working on algorithms and techniques to construct very large scale Bayesian network models to help understand the relationships between words.

* We are building a large-scale public e-mail system capable of storing 1 GB of data per user, with a unique user interface that centers around search, scaling to many millions of users.

All this is achieved by connecting together tens of thousands of servers behind google.com and providing them with a lot of custom-built, cutting-edge, innovative software.

It should be clear by now that the search problem involves much more than just searching, and that some of the most exciting work at Google happens behind the scenes. We’re also working on a number of interesting projects at the moment that are too preliminary to discuss here, and we’re always looking for new and interesting ideas.

Who we are
Who did all this? A dedicated and growing team of smart, creative programmers and computer scientists — but we just call them engineers. They come to Google with expertise in a large range of topics. And before they joined Google, some of them also built software, hardware, tools and other technology you might have used:

* A Bug’s Life
* Alpha CPUs and Alpha-based Multiprocessor Systems
* Apple Lisa
* Aspect-oriented Programming
* ATOM (A Tool for Object-file Modification)
* Cilk
* CiteSeer
* Deep Space 1
* The Digital Michelangelo Project
* Epi Info
* FLASH Project
* GIGAswitch/ATM (Autonet 2)
* Gimp
* gtk
* Hyperbolic Browsing
* ical
* Interlisp
* Itsy Pocket Computer

* Java HotSpot
* JScheme
* lex (by our CEO!)
* Mars Exploration Rover
* Personal Juke Box
* Plan 9
* Python
* Sather
* Scribe
* Sequitur
* SiByte SB-1250 Processor
* The Self Language and Compilation System
* SUIF Compiler
* Surfbot
* Toy Story 2
* UTF-8
* Venti
* Visual Threads
* Vortex Compiler
* WebTV

A few of them wrote papers and books you might have read, on a fairly wide range of topics:

* algorithms
* compiler optimization
* information retrieval
* artificial intelligence
* file system design
* machine learning
* profiling

* computer architecture
* user interface design
* data mining
* genetic algorithms
* web information retrieval
* search engine design
* data compression

* computer graphics
* robotics
* text processing
* natural language processing
* software engineering and design
* operating systems and distributed systems
* various other topics

Not all the engineers have done such public work, of course, and their backgrounds vary enormously. Some started at Google right after college; others came after spending time in academia or industry. Some love thinking long and hard about difficult problems; others just enjoy getting their hands dirty building and deploying massive, real-world systems. What they all share, though, is an enthusiasm for the challenge of making the world a better place through the intelligent application of information technology. It’s a blast.


There is so much still to be done, so many hard (but fun!) problems to solve, so much information in the world, we’d like some of you to join us to help us in our task of making Google even better.

The engineering challenges we face at Google are exciting and the perks of working here are wonderful, but the real reason most of our engineers came here is that Google Engineering is a great place to work. It’s got lots of really smart people, amazing technology, fun problems, and a chance to make a real difference in the world.

Does this sound like an environment in which you would thrive?
If so, send your resume and brief cover letter to:


http://www.google.com – All About Google – Labs FAQ
©2005 Google


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