Google: The Story You Never Knew

Google 1997-1998 | Getty Images
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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This Post Has 57 Comments

  1. Avatar

    I agree with this article, we now use the “google it” term so freely that we might not even think about the internet before google. What I find most interesting is the way it came to be, google started in a dorm room, moved to a garage, and now is one of the most well-known companies. I wonder if both Larry and Sergey knew what they had created and that it would become one of the most popular search engine.

  2. Avatar

    This article was definitely an interesting read! Even though Google is something I use on a daily basis I never stopped to consider where it came from or the fact that yes, back in the day people were without Google. You could call this a little technology reliant but it really is hard to imagine a world without Google due to how easy it makes accessing information, which is something we do pretty much everyday now.

  3. Avatar

    What an interesting article! I very much enjoyed reading the story of Google and their success in the industry. I was not aware that such company of that capacity was invented by two students! It is a very empowering story. there were many things about Google that I was not aware of like YouTube and Android being part of Google!

  4. Avatar

    What Larry Page and Sergey Brin created is simply amazing. It is a part of our everyday lives and it is continuing to grow every single year. I use Google every single day and I didn’t know much about its origin. Who would have thought that a project made by two college kids was going to become such a huge success. They are the most popular search engine and they continue to innovate every day.

  5. Avatar

    It’s incredible Larry and Sergey could create something so meaningful and vital to our lives today in their dorm and later in a garage. I can’t imagine how limited and demanding research must have been without google. From just an idea that tries to solve an everyday problem, they created the most valued and well-known company of the 21st century. I think this story has inspired me to do more research project related to my major.

  6. Avatar

    Google is such a useful tool to everyone of this life you could see we even need it. Google along so other many tech companies started out small which is so interesting to me. Just like Apple the only company to reach 1 trillion dollars, Amazon the company that the worlds richest man is the CEO of. Google is the search engine that is used the most, they fund many things such as non profits they also have scholarships for minority’s. This is what makes google a unique company to me.

  7. Avatar

    Google has become a huge resource for todays society and this article touches on how this idea came about from the minds of two college students. It’s crazy to think the Larry and Sergey were just working on a random project and somehow managed to create a soon to be billon dollar idea. Its very motivating as a college student to think that you can create a career for yourself while in the process of getting a degree.

  8. Avatar

    When i first saw the featured image pop up at the bottom of my screen, i thought it was an ad. Then i read the title and was super interested. It is cool to see how google expanded from something so small to the powerhouse it is today. Life would be so different without google. I can’t even imagine how hardd it would be to find information without it. Sure there are other search engines out there like yahoo and Bing, but they can’t compare to google. Good job and keep uo the good work.

  9. Avatar

    I use Google every single day and never thought about ‘googling’ how Google was created. I was captivated throughout the whole article and found it so interesting how Google came about. How incredible and motivating that two college students turned something small into something huge that people use every single day. I have heard a little about Eric Schmidt but I enjoyed reading how he had a part in making Google even more successful. Great read!

  10. Avatar

    Like Facebook, Google started out as a small idea from two undiscovered individuals and flourished into one of the most profitable search engines on the internet. It is inspiring to know that this came from just two college students working on a project. It is astounding to know that at one point internet and Google just did not exist. My whole life I have known the internet, and who knows how drastically different it would have been in the absence of it. This article really put that into perspective for me.

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