AdSense turned 10 years old today. That 10 years has taken it from a cool experiment in figuring out the best ways to earn money on the nascent web to an enormous project that accounts for about a third of the revenue of one of the most successful companies in the world.
The web is such a central part of many of our lives now that I like to be reminded occasionally how new it really is. This one is a particularly notable reminder for me: of the 10 years that AdSense has existed, I’ve worked on it for four; and I work with several people who have been on the project for more than half of its lifetime. I couldn’t hope for a better team to work with.
We recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of Google in London by welcoming the Streetview car at the office. The imagery went live today.
I love the variety of hats on display. Those hats were actually for a reason. We wanted Googlers’ faces to be unblurred, so we all wore hats to identify ourselves as Googlers. Anyone walking by without a hat would still have their face blurred just like on the rest of Streetview.
Can you spot me?
The show was one of the earliest successful video blogging endeavours, starting way back in March 2006. After previously experiencing viral media success with How to Dance Properly, Frank decided to record a video blog every weekday for an entire year. The resulting show covered such diverse topics as intelligent design, the war in Iraq, and dressing up your vacuum to look like a person. It was also the origin of the Earth Sandwich—where people on opposite sides of the world used GPS to accurately place two slices of bread and enclose the entire planet in a sandwich—which is what first hooked me as a fan.
Every weekday is a lot. There are 262 episodes of the show, mostly between two and three minutes long, making the whole thing about 11 hours long. It’s longer than the extended Lord of the Rings trilogy, and that took 438 days to film (principal photography only).
As you might expect given the time constraints, some episodes didn’t hit a very high quality bar. But there were also some truly excellent episodes. If you’ve never seen the show before you could do worse than to get a feeling for it from my favourite, “scrabble”.
Milton Bradley is of course famous for having come in second place in the Least Fun Name for a Toy Company Ever competition.
Even if you missed the show, it’s possible that you’ll recognize Frank from his 2010 TED talk, where he talked about a lot of the experiments he did in involving his audience in his projects.
Nearly six years after the show first started, and five years since it finished, we’re going to get something new. The Kickstarter project has already beaten its funding goal of $50,000—although there are some pretty cool rewards in the offering if you want to push the total a little higher by backing it yourself—so it’s pretty much guaranteed to happen. It promises three episodes a week of “same same, but different”.
The web has changed a huge amount in five years. You can tell that just by comparing the resolution of the Kickstarter promo video to that of an average episode of the show. But it has also changed with respect to how people engage with each other online.
In March 2006, Facebook was still limited to college and highschool students. Twitter started in the same month as the show. The web was more divided, with some people being creators and others silent consumers. The show fought against that tendency by encouraging audience members to contribute and to change its direction. These days almost everyone posts things online, so it will be interesting to see what effect a more participatory audience has on the nature of the new show.