Google: The Story You Never Knew

Google 1997-1998 | Getty Images

It is hard to believe that back in the day there was no Google. Today it is second nature to just “Google” whatever you need to know, from learning to tie a tie, to watching season two of Stranger Things, to getting your degree online. We take for granted the immense power, reliability, and precision of our “favorite” search engine, and not many people know the full story of the creation of Google. Buckle down and get ready for the story you never knew.

The story of Google begins at Stanford University in California, where two young Computer Science graduate students were working on a research project in 1996 for the Stanford Digital Library Technologies. Sergey Brin and Larry Page (the initial Co-Founders of Google) were working on a way to make digital libraries work better and more efficiently. Before there were search engines on the internet, early internet users used a “web crawler” to index books and to analyze the connections between them. The “web crawler” that Larry and Sergey created would use information from books to give relevance and usefulness by the quality and number of citations from the books.1 This would be a precursor for the ideas behind the platform we know as Google search.

First Logo for Google | Wikimedia Commons
April 08, 2003: Larry Page (left) and Sergey Brin (right), Inside a server room at Google’s campus headquarters in Mountain View | Courtesy of Getty Images

When Larry and Sergey were working on their “web crawler,” they decided to create an algorithm known as PageRank. This is what makes Google Google. It ranks websites by their search engine results.2 They simply took the same concept from their index of books, but instead of just books, the program analyzed websites and their search relevance from the web. Once the two understood what they had created, they quickly started working on BackRub, the first company name before picking the name we all know, Google.3 Larry and Sergey released the first ever version of Google on the Stanford Website in August 1996 as a beta test. Soon after releasing their beta test, they were astonished by the success of Google. As a result of this, the two needed a place to set up an office and their equipment. So Larry and Sergey decided to use their dorm rooms as there central hub for all of their work. Since the BackRub crawler utilized much of Stanford’s network bandwidth, which was a blessing and a curse, the internet at Stanford would regularly crash and go down for periods of time. But thankfully, no one at Stanford gave the two any trouble, since everyone was impressed with what Larry and Sergey were doing at Stanford. Once Google started getting bigger, Larry and Sergey needed a new place to start, so they asked their friend Susan Wojcicki, also a graduate at Stanford University, if they could rent out her garage.

Former CEO of Google Eric Schmidt| Wikimedia Commons

On September 7, 1998, Google was established. It initially was able to deliver over 10,000 web searches, which gained the reputation for being the most reliable source of information on the internet. By mid-1998, Larry and Sergey started receiving financing from one of the most well-known co-founders in Silicon Valley, Andy Bechtolsheim, from Sun Microsystems Inc. As a result of Bechtolsheim’s investment, Google started raising over $1 million from other investors, family, and friends. A year later, in 1999, Google was searching over 500,000 web searches a day. That same year, Google received $25 million from rounds of venture capitalists because of Google’s tremendous search results. And by 2000, because of Google’s search engine power, they became the client search engine for Yahoo, although by 2004 Yahoo terminated its contract with Google. As a result of Google’s rapid growth, many internal management problems started to occur. Larry and Sergey knew they needed someone with a vast amount of knowledge on running a business, and they needed an experienced manager. So they decided to hire Eric Schmidt, who was the CEO of Novell, a software and service company. Larry and Sergey both agreed that Eric would be the CEO of Google, while Larry would be the president of products and Sergey the president of technology. These three men brought Google to new heights and significant growth.4 The astonishment doesn’t stop there, as Google currently processes over 40,000 searches every second on average, which translates into over 3.5 billion searches a day and 1.2 trillion per year. Who would have thought that one of the world’s most renounce tech companies would join many others in the cliche of starting in a garage where the probability of creating technological evolution was equal to finding life on Mars. Now their headquarters is a mega office in Mountain View, California.

Googleplex, the Google Head Office in Mountain View | Courtesy of Cassie Kifer

In a matter of a couple of years, the two Stanford graduate students Larry Page and Sergey Brin were able to create the most valued and well-known company of the twenty-first century.5 Over the coming years, Google started innovating what it meant to be a search engine, forming Google Images, Google Maps, Google Chrome, Gmail, YouTube, Android, and so much more. As of 2015, Larry Page and Sergey Brin created Alphabet Inc., which is the multinational conglomerate of Google that includes Waymo (self-driving cars), Google Fiber (internet provider), Nest Labs, and many more companies owned by Google but under the umbrella of Alphabet.

 

  1. Encyclopædia Britannica, September 2017, s.v. “Google Inc.,” by Mark Hall.
  2. Nicholas Carlson, “The Untold Story Of Larry Page’s Incredible Comeback,” Business Insider (April 2014).
  3. The name Google is a play on words from the word “googol” which is 1.0 × 10^100.
  4. Steven Levy, In the plex: how Google thinks, works, and shapes our lives (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011), 9-11.
  5. David Vise, “The Google Story,” Strategic Direction 23, no. 10 (April 2007): 192-199.
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52 Comments

  • I never knew that Google started out as a research project at a profound university. It’s interesting because Mark Zuckerberg had a similar success story with Facebook. I don’t know what we’ll be able to create in the future, but so much can be done in the time we have now in university. We’re so lucky to be living in a time where knowledge is so accessible and instantaneous.

  • It seems strange to imagine a world without Google and how that world would work. I am grateful that these men were able to create such an amazing search engine. It has helped me find out a lot of information throughout the years. It is amazing to think that the idea came out of an earlier project to create a web crawler.

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