Did Wojcicki Create AdSense?

Yesterday we wrote Profile Of Susan Wojcicki: Mother Of AdSense. covering a USA Today article article describing Susan Wojcicki as being responsible for creating Google AdSense.

Valleywag soon came out with a bold blog post countering USA Today’s article, calling Wojcicki a liar:

AdSense was not a prototype that Wojcicki developed. Instead, AdSense was the name of a product launched by Applied Semantics, a Santa Monica, Calif. startup, in October 2002. Google launched an AdSense copycat in March 2003, and then acquired Applied Semantics, and with it the AdSense name, one month later.

But really, did Wojcicki lie? Was it a USA Today mistake? Or is Valleywag wrong?

If you read the comments Danny and Phillip Lenssen left at Valleywag’s post, you can see it is not clear cut.

Phillip at Google Blogoscoped then posts a timeline of events for who created what and when.

  1. Applied Semantics announces their service called AdSense. (Announcement: October 21, 2002, with launch in November)
  2. At around the same time, Google launched their contextual targeting ads into an early test phase for some limited sites. This of course means it had already been thought of and in building state (at least) earlier that year. (“Fourth quarter” 2003, Traffick.com)
  3. Google goes fully live with their contextual ads technology. (Announcement: March 4, 2003)
  4. Shortly later, Google acquires Applied Semantics, and their contextual ads product AdSense, to (according to Google) complement their “content targeted advertising programs.” (Announcement: April 23, 2003)
  5. Google then renamed their context ads program to AdSense (and probably incorporated a little, or a lot, of the Applied Semantics technology into their existing ads system). (Announcement: June 18, 2003.)

Andrew Goodman explains that Google and Applied Semantics were not the only ones working on this technology.

Applied Semantics was far from the only company working on this type technology, and Google’s purported “copycat effort” actually was being beta tested only two months after the Applied Semantics release. At no time did the Applied Semantics founders claim that Google was aping them; they assumed, as any technology company would, that obvious and good ideas are generally working in parallel in Silicon Valley.

CNBC has quotes from Google, saying that this Valleywag article is “patently false.”

Krane [of Google] concedes one point, small that it might be: While it’s true that Wojcicki may not have created the “name” AdSense (which happened to be owned by a company called Applied Semantics which Google acquired four years ago) Krane is very clear that the technology behind that name–that Google ultimately unveiled and then called AdSense–was very much directed and invented by Wojcicki and her team.

Related Topics: Channel: Display | Google: AdSense


About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • http://www.memwg.com Eric Giguere

    I wouldn’t really say that AdSense is “not directly connected to AdWords”. AdSense is a distribution mechanism for AdWords, after all, and the existence of AdWords is what made AdSense possible in the first place. At the time, AdWords was primarily a set of keyword-targeted text ads. The algorithms described in the AdSense patent (see my detailed analysis), a combination of in-house and acquired technology, let them automatically select relevant ads from the AdWords inventory without human intervention and drastically expanded the reach of their advertising network. This is why I tell AdSense publishers that a rudimentary understanding of how AdWords works is key to their success.

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