Over the last several years, the world’s largest search engine has expanded beyond even the wildest of expectations. Google’s humble beginnings as a research project by Stanford students Larry Page and Sergey Brin now seem like a distant memory and the company is now a world leader in not only Web search, but in several other areas of the technology industry, as well. Although the Google brand may be best known for its revolutionary search engine, some of the company’s newest and upcoming offerings may truly solidify its place in history as one of the world’s most innovative brands.

Since its inception, Google’s focus has been search and search-related technology. When features such as Gmail, Google Images and Google Maps were introduced, elements of the company’s search algorithm were incorporated into those services in order to help integrate them further into Google’s core brand. Since the social network, Google+, debuted last year; Google’s business model has changed somewhat to reflect the social media trend that has made competitors such as Facebook and Twitter rank amongst the most popular sites on the Internet. The rise of G+ inspired such new features as Search Plus Your World and taken search in a more social direction.

However, Google is looking to extend its brand into new territories outside of search, social media and even the Web itself. The company’s announcements regardingautonomous vehiclesmay be a glimpse into the future of Google. While these technologies are outside of Google’s more traditional offerings, they are an indication that the company wants to be recognized as a world leader in innovative technologies.

Some business analysts speculate that Google’s investment into such projects may not be a prudent endeavor and could potentially waste millions of dollars in research and development costs. However, should Google’s expansion beyond search prove profitable, it would undoubtedly position the company as a success in both online and offline markets. The months and years ahead will be very significant for Google and both supporters and detractors of the brand should certainly be paying close attention as Google goes beyond search.