Story of Google

Recently I read a book on Google called “Google It”. It wasn’t a biography of a person but an insight into the organization itself and their founders, of course. I don’t like to read biographies of people, but this was something different. When I read the first page I got intrigued and finished the book in 3 days. It’s catchy and brilliantly written by Anna Crowley Redding. Some of you might have read the book or know enough on Google, but for those who haven’t been fortunate here’s an excerpt. Disclaimer – This article doesn’t intend to reproduce or copy-paste the book itself, instead is a gist of interesting facts, a story of perseverance in my own words.

Most of us know the founders of Google. It is a brainchild of Sergey Mikhaylovich Brin born in Moscow, Russia on August 21, 1973 and Lawrence (Larry) Page born in Lansing, Michigan on March 26, 1973. Both were studying in Stanford University. And as every student they had assignments and homework. Remember they were known to the world only after Google came into existence, so until then they were one among the crowd, nothing special other than their theories and thoughts.

In those years’ web was just in its infancy and internet was not so easily available to the masses. Now that they were student of Stanford, they had access to facilities and resources. If one had to so some research they must scoured through multiple books, articles and talk to people. If lucky, using internet would take at least 30 mins to search something on the web with no guarantee that the search will return expected results. Not much data and information were available in first place and spending time on a search wasn’t an efficient thing at all when you are working on a homework deadline.

Sergey and Larry thought of doing something for this problem and took it as their homework assignment. The year was 1996. Their first ginormous task was to download every page (used Web Crawlers to handle the task) that was on the web and then rank it to index. Oops..this is getting technical. I will not bore you on the intricacies of the process so will not delve into what they did and how they did. But can tell you that wasn’t any easy as they initially thought. Storage and speed were at premium those days. They had to beg, borrow, steal to get their job done. The outcome, an effective SEARCH tool, much faster than what was available. Word went out and students started using it. Everyday student would query, and the number of users started increasing. The duo called their homework/ experiment as BACKRUB, since it helped students as a rub would do for any aches.

Now that the tool was being popular and used by many, they had to continue to support the services they were offering. To do that they had to choose between schoolwork and running BACKRUB. Both being brought up and influenced by very intellectual and studious families, were expected to continue and get their PhDs. So, there was an emotional angle too before they could decide. They knew what they want so both dropped off from Stanford and donated 100% to the service. They must now move out of the college for two reasons, one was they were no longer a student and secondly, they now require a large space to carry out their operations which required housing of many computers, storage devices, cabling etc.

Later when the tool became popular the name BACKRUB sounded odd and not catchy. So, the duo met with their friends and colleagues to think on a new name. Many suggestions were dismissed. Someone yelled GOOGOLPLEX which immediately got accepted and short formed as GOOGOL (Googol is 1 followed by 100 zeroes or 10 to the power of 100).

On 15th September 1997 Larry and Sergey registered the domain name but misspelled it as GOOGLE. The mistake was catchy and better than the original, so they kept it. That’s how GOOGLE was born.

The issue now was how to generate money to support the ever-increasing cost of running the services as the service offered wasn’t gaining them any profit whatsoever. After many deliberations, they decided to sell their company and go back to Stanford to complete their PhDs. In 1997 they approached AltaVista (the then -year 1995- popular search service provider) and requested them to buy GOOGLE for USD $1M. Altavista rejected the offer. So, they continued with the help of few investors.

On 8th September 1998 GOOGLE Inc. officially became a company. Their first headquarter was in a garage (remember earlier I mentioned they had to move out of the Uni and find a new space) of Susan Wojcicki, the then colleague of Sergey and Larry. In 1998, Google had about 24 Million websites in their database. As the workload increased, they looked out for someone to join them and thus came the first employee (though technically Sergey and Larry were the first and second employee, but were also the owner) of Google, Craig Silverstein.

Wrapping up this article, I would like to take you to key milestones (not discussed already) in the journey of making Google to what it is today.

  • Google’s Motto – “Don’t be Evil”
  • August 1998 – Google DOODLE was born (honouring the Burning Man festival). Designed to commemorate holidays, notable events and achievements of prominent figures. This year it
  • Employee #20 Marissa Mayer – Former President and CEO of Yahoo
  • In 2000, Google launched MentalPlex (An April Fool act, it was a search technology that read the user’s mind to determine what the user wanted to search for, thus eliminating the need for typing)
  • October 2000 – Google launched new service called AdWords
  • September 2001 – Google NEWS was born (to keep people informed of all the news during the 2001 Twin Towers tragedy)
  • August 2001 – Eric Schmidt became CEO; Larry became President of Products and Sergey became President of Technology
  • In 2001 – Google launched IMAGES
  • December 2002 – Google launched FROOGLE (online Shopping)
  • 1st April 2004 – GMAIL was launched
  • 19th August 2004 – Google launched it’s IPO, trading by ‘GOOG’ on NASDAQ
  • In 2006, Google launched another service ‘TRANSLATE’ (to help multilingual communications)
  • Early 2005 – Google MAPS was launched (Google bought KEYHOLE – a digital mapping company – in 2004)
  • On Valentine day 2005 – YouTube was launched, which was bought by Google in October 2006 for USD $1.65 billion
  • In 2008, Google launched its own operating system called ANDROID
  • 15th August 2015 – Google became part of a parent company named ALPHABET. Thus, Larry became CEO of Alphabet, Sergey became President of Alphabet and Sundar Pichai (a long timer) became CEO of Google

Key Terms used in this blog:

Internet: Giant network of Computers

Web: All contents, documents, files, folders and web pages

Web Crawlers (Spiders, Internet BOTS): A program that visits webpages and reads them. Each crawler is on hunt for specific information. Once found the Spider then creates a Database (DB) or Index of what it has discovered, making the information easier to access.

Translate: It’s a free multilingual machine translation service provided by Google. It supports over 100 languages.

IPO: Initial Public Offering

Doodle: A temporary alteration of the logo intended to celebrate notable events, holidays around the world, credit achievements of scientists and innovators.

I hope you will like this excerpt. Do comment.

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