Google is turning 20. And it could have been such a nice celebration!

Instead, here's where we are: Mistrust, misunderstandings, and Washington calling the tech giant's latest decision an "insult."

Here's the anniversary, the history, and the truly odd decision Google just made (maybe even an insulting one) that's overshadowing the milestone.

September 4, 1998

Remember 1998? I suppose a significant number or people reading this probably weren't even born.

But, to put things in perspective: The world had just heard the name Monica Lewinsky, and Will Smith's "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" and Wyclef Jean's "Gone Till November" were among the top songs of the year. Saving Private Ryan and There's Something About Mary were in theaters. 

A long time ago, in other words. 

And that's why it's so impressive (to put it mildly) that Sergey Brin and Larry Page, two graduate students at Stanford who had no background in entrepreneurship, launched the company that became Google.

They incorporated on September 4, 1988, reportedly because investor Andy Bechtolsheim wrote them a $100,000 check, and they couldn't deposit it without an incorporated company.

They saw the future. You (and I) probably didn't. So it goes.

Fast forward

And now here we are, 20 years later. It'd be a lot of fun to go through the ups and downs of Google, from search to ads to basically world domination.

But where we are truly is a time of peril for Google. Heck, the president has all but declared war on the company over supposed anti-conservative bias.

For the record, the No. 1 example he cited didn't really make sense (supposedly not promoting his state of the union address in 2017, when Trump didn't actually deliver a state of the union address). But the why doesn't really matter.

What does matter is that Congress is asking Facebook, Twitter, and Google to testify yet again this week, to talk about Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Twitter is sending CEO Jack Dorsey. Facebook is sending COO Sheryl Sandberg. But so far, Google has agreed only to send a much lower-level official, its senior vice president of global affairs, Kent Walker.

Yeah, I'd never heard of him either.

'An insult'

The hearings, before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, start Wednesday. But as of late Labor Day evening, Google CEO Sundar Pichai still wasn't planning to attend.

And commentators called Pichai's decision "an insult." There was talk of a possible subpoena--at least in the House--if he doesn't voluntarily come to the Senate.

"Our committees have the power to subpoena people," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Fox News over the weekend. "We don't want to have to do that. That's why I think it's better if you believe in having transparency and accountability, and you believe in 'doing no evil,' there's no reason why you would hold back and not come forth." 

Democrats joined in. 

"Chances are there's going to be an empty chair there," Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., told CNBC. "And I think there will be a lot more questions raised that could have been actually dealt with if they sent a senior decision-maker and not simply their counsel."

So happy birthday, Google. Maybe we'll see you in Washington. If not, at least we know you've done something unique.

You helped unite the country's most polarized city. Too bad it seems that it's united in anger against you.

Published on: Sep 4, 2018