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99 Red Balloons

Google the visionary

“Our goal is to develop services that significantly improve the lives of as many as possible.”

Here is what Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google’s founders, explained in their first letter to shareholders.

Okay, I admit, Google is not the first company that comes to my mind when I think of responsible and socially involved companies. Google, it is this big machinery that generates more than 60 billion dollars a year. Before I had a more accurate look at their activities, I did not even know from where this money was coming.

 Because when you think about it, I use Google everyday more than one hundred time. But I never pay for it. At least, I do not have the impression that I pay for it. Google surrounds me: I use the research engine ten times in one hour, I navigate through the Web thanks to Google Chrome, my Smartphone uses the Androïd system, my e-mail is a G-mail, I listen to my favorite songs on Youtube… And never spend one dollar!

But actually, I still provide a lot of money to Google: 89% of their revenues comes from advertising. Announcers pay to have their ads on the Web, and each time I click on one link, or watch a video, it is money that goes directly in Google’s pockets.

Free software for ordinary people? Financed through payable advertising space for private societies? Wow, it looks that Google is not this big American cash machine, but a genuine altruistic company standing for free and easy access to information!

Of course, it is an obvious exaggeration. But still, there is a part of truth. That is why I wanted to write today about this crazy project run by Google: Project Loon.

This project started with a really simple consideration made by the firm: fast information services matter only if you are fortunate enough to be able to connect online. Yet, only 24% of the world population owns a private Internet connection in 2014.

In order to “improve the lives of as many as possible”, Google developed the Loon for All project. They created balloons that could fly super-high, and provide connectivity in rural areas within a radius of 40km. It has already helped farmers in New Zealand and students in Brazil to get access to the Internet. The brand wants to invest on this system, and hopes to bring more and more balloons around remote parts of the world.

Nowadays, having access to Internet is not only a comfort matter: it is essential to access information, it provides unlimited learning possibilities, and it also connects people to a new kind of reality, which is faster and overcomes boundaries.

This huge project has been developed by GoogleX, the secret R&D Google’s Lab. Thanks to the support of national spatial agency teams, such as the French CNES, the Marathoner balloon was released in the sky on December 2014. It stayed up in the air for 134 days, travelling from New-Zealand to Chili. It is the first Google’s record, but they are clearly not going to stop now. Hopefully in a few decades, it won' be one balloon, neither 99, but thousands of balloons discharging their information flows... 

Is Google going to realize the crazy dream of a fully connected Earth? It can be scaring or exciting, the fact remains that with Internet we entered a brand new era. And no one knows how far the Master of disruption is able to go. 

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