Justin Leonard Reveals How Google Might Have Achieved Early Success

Nov 19, 2022

This is a short article about Google. I’m going to tell you a quick but interesting story about what might have led to Google surpassing Yahoo in search.

I started my online business in 1998, while serving in the United States Air Force. I joined the military about a year and a half earlier, or around the middle of 1996. It was an interesting time during the tech boom.

Ebay was the top online shopping destination at the time. Today, they are the number two online shopping destination. Yahoo was the top search engine at the time, and many are already aware that it was Google that powered the Yahoo search results.

But one thing I remember from my days in the military is that Google was the preferred search engine among service members where I worked… and it wasn’t because Google was better. In fact, at the time, Yahoo was better. The reason Google was preferred among service members had to do with the simplicity of Google search pages.

The military is a highly professional environment. The military is very rigid and serious about everything, all the time, and you don’t want to create the appearance that you are having too much fun at your desk, playing on the internet.

In comparison, Yahoo had things like flashy banners on their homepage, salacious ads, tabloid news, pop-ups, and other things that simply didn’t fit into the professional environment of the military. Google’s search pages were very subdued and muted. At the time, it was only text. There were no images or ads. Of course, now they have tons of ads, but it was much different back then.

I would not be surprised if this had something to do with how they gradually overtook Yahoo to ultimately become the number one search engine; and one of the largest companies in the world. If you’re using Google search at work everyday, you might eventually get used to it. Do you take that home with you? Do you maybe tell your family and friends about it, and eventually they too become regular users of Google?

So do you think it is possible that this workplace preference to use Google over Yahoo search was a factor in their early success? I’m sure it was a part of it, but most likely only Google knows how much their minimalist appearance helped to propel them to number one.


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