Search engines or internet portals have been around since the early days of the internet. But it was Google, a relative latecomer, that would go on to become the premier destination for finding just about anything on the World Wide Web.
The very popular search engine called Google was invented by computer scientists Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The site was named after a googol—the name for the number 1 followed by 100 zeros—found in the book Mathematics and the Imagination by Edward Kasner and James Newman. To the site’s founders, the name represents the immense amount of information that a search engine has to sift through.
In 1995, Page and Brin met at Stanford University while they were graduate students in computer science. By January 1996, the pair began collaborating on writing a program for a search engine dubbed Backrub, named after its ability to do backlink analysis. The project resulted in a widely popular research paper titled “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine.”
This search engine was unique in that it used a technology they developed called PageRank that determined a website’s relevance by taking into account the number of pages, along with the importance of the pages, that linked back to the original site. At the time, search engines ranked results based on how often a search term appeared on a webpage.
Next, fueled by the rave reviews that Backrub received, Page and Brin began working on developing Google. It was very much a shoestring project at the time. Operating out of their dorm rooms, the pair built a server network using cheap, used, and borrowed personal computers. They even maxed out their credit cards buying terabytes of disks at discount prices.
They first tried to license their search engine technology but failed to find anyone that wanted their product at an early stage of development. Page and Brin then decided to keep Google and seek more financing, improve the product, and take it to the public themselves when they had a polished product.
The strategy worked, and after more development, the Google search engine eventually turned into a hot commodity. Sun Microsystems co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim was so impressed that after a quick demo of Google. Other angel investors included Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos. With sufficient funds, Google Inc. opened its first office in Menlo Park, California. Google.com, a beta (test status) search engine, was launched and answered 10,000 search queries every day. On September 21, 1999, Google officially removed the beta from its title.
During the period of rapid growth, the company introduced a variety of products, including Gmail, Google Docs, Google Drive, Google Voice, and a web browser called Chrome. It also acquired streaming video platforms YouTube and Blogger.com. More recently, there have been forays into different sectors. Some examples are Nexus (smartphones), Android (mobile operating system), Pixel (mobile computer hardware), a smart speaker (Google Home), broadband (Google Fi), Chromebooks (laptops), Stadia (gaming), self-driving cars, and numerous other ventures.
In 2015, Google underwent a restructuring of divisions and personnel under the conglomerate name Alphabet. Collectively, Alphabet and its subsidiaries consistently rank among the top 10 most valuable and influential companies in the world.