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Happy birthday, Google!

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On the 4th September 1998 Google was founded in Menlo Park, USA. Little could Larry Page and Sergey Brin (both born in 1973) have imagined that it would become the global behemoth it is today.

From the start, its mission was “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful“. The unofficial slogan is “Don’t be evil”. The company listed in 2004 and moved to Mountain View, California in 2006. This is the Googleplex… which sounds just a little bit evil.

Today the company has revenue of over $50 billion and profits of just under $11 billion. While it has unsurprisingly exceeded the market capitalisation of fellow technology leaders (it is currently #2, above Microsoft (#3) and Apple (#1)) at times, it always, always features in business and consumer Superbrands.

It even has its own verb entry in the OED, “to Google” .

There is no equivalent for Microsoft or Apple. Unless you count “To PowerPoint “ (verb)’ to bore your audience with endless slides of bullet points, often with pointless animation and appalling clip art.’

Google has gone a long way towards achieving its aim of making the world’s information universally accessible. Very, very few people in the developed world will not use the eponymous search engine, maps, youtube, analytics, cloud hosting, the android operating system, or the biggest revenue stream for Google, Adwords  – as advertiser or consumer.

As this article from Alliance Trust points out the company divides opinion for investors.  Simon Clemens summarises the divide, “Energy efficient data centres, investment in new sources of renewable energy, and the purchase of carbon offsets are some examples of measures which Google takes to minimise its overall environmental impact. In 2012, Google was recognised by Greenpeace for its contribution towards promoting the economic benefits of investing in clean energy.”

“The company also ranks very highly from a social and human capital point of view. It understands its people, or ‘Googlers’, are the key to its success. Google has a policy that software engineers spend 20% of their time on independent projects, the source of many of the company’s most popular products. It also provides an incentive for employees to develop and nurture their innovation skills, as well as ensuring Google remains an employer of choice.”

He goes on to say that conversely, “when it comes to its corporate governance structure, Google does not rank so highly. The existence of a dual voting share class ensures the two founders and the chairman control more than 70% of the effective voting rights, giving minority shareholders little influence.”

That the business has a global market share of 71% for search (90% in the UK and 3% in China), should worry those who believe in free markets where disruptive competition is king, and the essential key to innovation.

Concerns are rightly raised about such a dominant corporation concerning its approach to copyright, censorship and privacy. That the NSA and GCHQ can access their data is disturbing, but the same concerns apply to Facebook from the digital age and News Corporation from the analogue age.

The company’s tax structure also raises issues for those who believe there is a duty for companies to pay tax.

Overall, Google has done less evil than most corporations of equivalent size and easily won the search war in the developed economies. That said, their position is no unassailable. Upstart Facebook won the subsequent social war (67%), just as Microsoft won the preceding PC operating system war (77%) and office software skirmish.

Samsung is currently winning the mobile handset war, but has a cool challenger in Apple, and between them they only have 49% of the market, meaning the ‘others’ may rise. China’s sheer size also represents a challenge for the global market share of Google, who has had issues with the country’s regime.

The most interesting challenge for Google however, is to transform itself from a company that does no evil, to one that only does good. Impossible? With Sergey Brin and Larry Page’s original pre-IPO commitment to work for the company until 2024, we’re confident they have the vision and motive to do just that, if their shareholders and fellow Googlers let them.

Happy Birthday Google. Thank you for making the world’s information accessible and useful these last 15 years – has it only been 15years?

Simon Leadbetter is the founder and publisher of Blue & Green Tomorrow. He has held senior roles at Northcliffe, The Daily Telegraph, Santander, Barclaycard, AXA, Prudential and Fidelity. In 2004, he founded a marketing agency that worked amongst others with The Guardian, Vodafone, E.On and Liverpool Victoria. He sold this agency in 2006 and as Chief Marketing Officer for two VC-backed start-ups launched the online platform Cleantech Intelligence (which underpinned the The Guardian’s Cleantech 100) and StrategyEye Cleantech. Most recently, he was Marketing Director of Emap, the UK’s largest B2B publisher, and the founder of Blue & Green Communications Limited.

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Environment

How to Build An Eco-Friendly Home Pool

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eco-friendly pool for home owners
Licensed Image from Shutterstock - By alexandre zveiger

Swimming pools are undoubtedly one of the most luxurious features that any home can have. But environmentally-conscious homeowners who are interested in having a pool installed may feel that the potential issues surrounding wasted water, chemical use and energy utilized in heating the water makes having a home swimming pool difficult to justify.

But there is good news, because modern technologies are helping to make pools far less environmentally harmful than ever before. If you are interested in having a pool built but you want to make sure that it is as eco-friendly as possible, you can follow the advice below. From natural pools to solar panel heating systems, there are many steps that you can take.

Choose a natural pool to go chemical free

For those homeowners interested in an eco-friendly pool, the first thing to consider is a natural pool. Natural swimming pools utilise reed bed technology or moss-filtration to naturally filter out dirt from the water. These can be combined with eco-pumps to allow you to have a pool that is completely free from chemicals.

Not only are traditional pool chemicals potentially harmful to the skin, they also mean that you can contaminate the area around the pool if chemical-filled water leaks or is splashed around. This can be bad for your garden and the environment general.

It will be necessary to work with an expert pool builder to ensure that you have the expertise to get your natural pool installed properly. But the results with definitely be worth the effort and planning that you have to put in.

Avoid concrete if possible

The vast majority of home pools are built using concrete but this is far from ideal in terms of an eco-friendly pool for a large number of reasons. Concrete pools are typically built and then lined to stop keep out any bacteria. This is theoretically fine, except that concrete is porous and the lining can be liable to erode or break which can allow bacteria to enter the pool.

It is much better to use a non-porous material such as fibreglass or carbon ceramic composite for your pool. Typically, these swimming pools are supplied in a one-piece shell rather than having to be built from scratch, ensuring a bacteria-free environment. These non-porous materials make it impossible for the water to become contaminated through bacteria seeping into the pool by osmosis.

The further problem that can arise from having a concrete pool is that once this bacteria begins to get into the pool it can be more difficult for a natural filtration system to be effective. This can lead to you having to resort to using chemicals to get the pool clean.

Add solar panels

It is surprising how many will go to extreme lengths to ensure that their pool is as eco-friendly as possible in terms of building and maintaining it but then fall down on something extremely obvious. No matter what steps you take with the rest of your pool, it won’t really be worth the hassle if you are going to be conventionally heating your pool up, using serious amounts of energy to do so.

Thankfully there are plenty of steps you can take to ensure that your pool is heated to a pleasant temperature while causing minimal damage to the environment. Firstly, gathering energy using solar panels has become a very popular way to reduce consumption of electricity as well as decreasing utility bills. Many businesses offer solar panels specifically for swimming pools.

Additionally, installing an energy efficient heat pump or boiler to work in conjunction with your solar panels can be hugely beneficial.

Cover it!

Finally, it is worth remembering that there are many benefits to investing in a pool cover. When you cover your pool you increase its heat retention which stops you from having to power a pump or boiler to keep it warm. This works in conjunction with the solar panels and eco-friendly heating system that you have already had installed.

Additionally, you cover helps to keep out dirt and other detritus that can enter the pool, bringing in bacteria. Anything that you can do to keep bacteria out will be helpful in terms of keeping it clean.

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Features

4 Ways To Get a Green House in 2018

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green house and homes
Featured Image From Shutterstock - By Photographee.eu

Demand for green houses is surging. In 2020, almost 20% of all homes on the market will be green.

If you would like to buy a green home, this is a great time to look into it. Prices are still pretty low and there are a lot more financing options available than there were right after the recession.

If you’re thinking about buying a house, now could be a very good time to make the move! A number of factors in the housing market right now mean that you might be able to afford your dream home. Although in many parts of the country house prices are still rising, if you do your research and plan wisely, there are lots of good schemes to help you get your foot on the property ladder, or trade up to the house you’ve always wanted.

Interest Rates and Stamp Duty

Although the Bank of England raised interest rates by 0.25% recently, they remain very low, which is good news if you’re thinking of taking out a mortgage. However, rates may not stay low and it’s predicted that there’ll be a further rate rise during 2018, so don’t wait too long. Another factor that’s going to help first time buyers in particular is the Chancellor’s decision to abolish stamp duty for first timers purchasing properties for under £300,000.

Different options

For many people looking to buy a green home, raising a deposit of between 5% and 20% may not be a realistic option, in which case there are a growing number of schemes to help. Increasingly popular are shared ownership schemes, through which the buyer pays a percentage of the full value of the property (typically between 25% and 75%) and the local council or a housing association pays the rest, and takes part ownership. This is suitable for buyers who may struggle to meet the up-front costs of buying outright. There will often be a service charge or management fees to pay in addition to the mortgage. The Government’s Help To Buy scheme is a good place to start looking if you’re interested in this option. This scheme is now available to people looking to buy green homes too.

ISA Options

If you’re still saving for a deposit, another scheme is the Help to Buy ISA. You can get a 25% boost to your savings on amounts up to £200 per month with this scheme. It’s only open to first time buyers and you can claim a maximum of £3000.

Other costs

Green home buyers are going to run into a number of other ancillary costs, most of which are common to other homebuyers.

When calculating how much you can afford, it’s vitally important to remember that buying a house comes with a whole host of other costs. Depending on the cost of the property that you’re buying, you may have to pay stamp duty of anywhere between 1% and 5%. There’ll be estate agents fee if you’re also selling a property, although there are a wide range of online estate agents operating such as Purple Bricks or Right Move that have lower fees than traditional high street companies. Conveyancing costs to a solicitor can add another £1000-£3000 and you may need to take out life insurance and hire a moving firm.

There are other initial costs such as, fixing parts of the home that aren’t upto your taste. Getting new furniture to fill up all the new-found space in your new home. If you are moving away from the city, you need to consider the cost of transportation as well, as it can take up quite a lot over time. Take your time, do your homework and shop around and soon you could be getting the keys to your perfect home.

I hope this article was useful for you to learn more about the basics that you need to be aware of before you start the process of buying your first home. If you have any doubts with regards to this, let us know through the comments and we will be glad to help you out. If you have any suggestions regarding how we can improve the article, let us know them through the comments as well for us to improve.

Do you have any other reservations against buying your first home? Do you see your house as an asset or a liability? Do you think it is important for everyone to get themselves a new home? Let us know through the comments.

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