You can’t record a history of Google (GOOG) , which celebrated its 20th birthday in 2018, without examining the history of search engines first.
Encyclopedias have been around for centuries, but the idea of creating a search engine that covered everything on the internet has only been around for just under 30 years (the first web-based search engine is credited to Alan Emtage, a McGill University student who created the search engine “Archie” – short for “archives.”)
Archie solved a particularly vexing problem for data analysts – the ability to collect so-called “scattered data” by merging a script-based data collection tool with a regular expression matcher to help early internet users to find file names by typing in a user query.
Within a few years, search engines became more pervasive, as search engine outlets and directories like LookSmart, Excite, Yahoo Directory, Alta Vista, Business.com, Ask.com, and Galaxy all grew popular with web users by the mid-1990s.
An Early History of Google
In 1995, two Stanford University computer science students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, began working on a computer program called BackRub – a search engine that leveraged backlink analysis to track and record data on the internet. (The name “BackRub” was derived from the algorithms ranking that calculated how many “back-links” a web page includes.)
The crown jewel of BackRub was a data collection system known as PageRank, which assigned a web site’s ranking importance by counting the number of pages, mixing in the relevancy of those pages, and linking back to the original web page.
That technology led directly to the cresting of Google, which was self-funded by Page and Bryn working out of their Stanford dormitory rooms on a shoestring budget. The pair used discounted computer parts and maxed out their credit cards before Andy Bechtolsheim, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, wrote a check out to “Google Inc.” for $100,000, to get the company up and running by 1998, when Google was formally incorporated. Bechtolsheim reportedly wrote the check immediately after seeing an early Google product demo on a Stanford professor’s front porch.
Soon more cash flowed in (Amazon (AMZN) founder Jeff Bezos was an early investor) and Google began the ascent to the top of the internet search engine pyramid, with the search engine officially rolled out in 1999, the same year Bryn and Page opened up the first Google offices in Menlo Park, Ca. (the garage was owned by Susan Wojcicki, an early staff member and now Google chief executive officer.)
The new company mission statement was simple and direct: “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
The name itself has an interesting backstory. The term “Google” is derived from the word “googol” – a term for the number one, followed by 100 zeros. The name is included in the book “Mathematics and the Imagination,” which presumably was read and admired by Page and Bryn. According to company history, both Google founders viewed the term as a great way to encapsulate the arduous task of collecting information on everything on the internet.
Google Growth Patterns
In the ensuing years, Google forged a glide path of steady growth, hiring engineers, computer scientists, sales professionals, administrative and marketing staff and upgraded its garage office into a new headquarters located in Mountain View, Calif., – an office campus setting now known as “The Googleplex.”
Yet Page and Bryn almost sold Google at several points in time during the 1990s.
Reportedly, Yahoo, Excite, and several other Silicon Valley companies were approached by the Google co-founders to buy the company, for the price of $1 million. Fortunately for both of them, and for thousands of Google employees and millions of investors today, all of the deals fell through and Page and Bryn forged onward, securing their hold on the internet search engine market.
What Has Google Done Since 2000?
In 2002 Google really struck gold with the introduction of AdWords, its pay-per-click, third-party advertising platform. Once again, Yahoo had a chance to cash in on Google, as Page and Bryn approached the technology company seeking $3 billion in funding. Yahoo declined, Google found the money elsewhere, and Google AdWords has become a huge profit center for Google over the past 16 years.
Soon after, Google rolled out several additional key company initiatives, Google AdSense (2003), a product that enabled companies to connect with global advertisers at the click of a button. Google’s email product, Gmail, was launched on April Fool’s Day in 2004.
More rollouts followed:
- Google Maps (2005)
- YouTube (2005 – but owned yet by Google)
- Google Earth (2005)
- Google Calendar (2006)
- Google Finance (2006)
- Google Streetview (2007)
- Google Android (2007)
- Google Chrome (2008)
- Google Voice (2009)
- Google Labs (in 2012)
In 2007, Google was also cited by Fortune magazine as the number one company to work for in the U.S.
10 Fun Facts About Google
- Google’s iconic “stick figure doodle” was modeled after the Burning Man Festival’s logo. The founders used the stick figure to let customers and users know that it was closing up shop to attend an early Burning Man festival.
- The $100,000 check written by Sun’s Bechtolsheim sat uncashed in an office desk drawer for a few weeks – Bryn and Page needed time to incorporate the firm as Google Inc., as that was the name written on the check.
- In its early heyday, Google hired a chef named Charlie Ayers. His claim to fame? Ayers was a chef frequently used by The Grateful Dead.
- In 1998, Google hired its first employee, Craig Silverstein. Google now has over 88,000 employees.
- Google New York was launched at a New York City Starbucks (SBUX) , by one Google sales staffer. Today, Google staffers report to work at a 2.9 million square foot complex on Eights Avenue in New York City.
- Google is well-known for its unofficial April Fool’s Day pranks. One prank that was actually genuine was the April 1, 2004 rollout of Gmail – which users took as a joke. Today it’s one of the most dominant email platforms around the world.
- Google’s huge buyout of YouTube didn’t happen in either of the tech giant’s offices. Instead, YouTube co-founder Steven Chen suggested a place that nobody would recognize them – a Denny’s in Palo Alto, Calif. Reportedly, the $1.65 acquisition was hammered out over mozzarella sticks and iced tea.
- Hollywood has a history of latching on to cultural phenomenons and Google was no different. On Oct. 15, 2002, the term “to Google” was used on the popular TV show, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
- One of Google’s earliest workplace regulars was a dog named Yoshka, brought to work every day by his owner, Urs Hoelzle, an early hire at Google. Today, the company is widely viewed as one of the most pet-friendly workplaces in the U.S.
- Google is also famous on another animal-related front. The company occasionally rents goats to “mow the lawn” at its Mountain View headquarters. The goats, several hundred in number, stay for a week chewing away at blades of grass, and leave the premises well-fertilized until they return.
Google 2020 and Beyond
Today, Google continues what it calls a “relentless search for better answers” as its core business philosophy.
The company also continues to build on its all-star lineup of products and services, and in 2015, remodeled its business structure with parent company Alphabet now running Google and its expansive presence with offices in 50 countries around the world. How expansive? Alphabet reported $110.9 billion in 2017 revenues, with a net income profit of $12.6 billion.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin haven’t fared so badly, either. The Google co-founders now have a net worth of $54.4 billion and $53 billion, respectively. That’s a long way from a Stanford dorm room, and remains one of history’s most compelling business success stories – a story that grows every day.
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