Google, the world’s most popular search engine, is celebrating its 25th birthday today, September 27, 2023. The company, which started as a research project by two Stanford University students in 1996, has grown into a global technology giant that offers a range of products and services beyond search, such as YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps, Android, Google Cloud, and more. Google has also been at the forefront of innovation in fields like artificial intelligence, self-driving cars, quantum computing, and biotechnology.
In this article, we will look back at some of the milestones and achievements that have shaped Google’s journey over the last quarter-century.
The Birth of Google
Google was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who met as doctoral students in computer science at Stanford University in 1995. They shared a common interest in exploring the structure and dynamics of the World Wide Web, which was still relatively new and unorganized at the time. They decided to collaborate on a research project that aimed to create a better way to find and rank information on the web.
Their project was initially called “BackRub”, because it analyzed the “backlinks” that pointed to a given website to determine its importance and relevance. They developed a prototype search engine that ran on Stanford’s servers and used PageRank, an algorithm that assigned a numerical value to each web page based on the number and quality of links pointing to it. They also devised a web crawler, a program that automatically browsed the web and indexed its content.
By 1997, their search engine had indexed about 60 million pages and was attracting attention from other researchers and users. They decided to rename their project to “Google”, a misspelling of “googol”, a mathematical term for a very large number (10^100). The name reflected their ambition to organize the vast amount of information on the web.
In 1998, their initial financial support came from Andy Bechtolsheim, one of the co-founders of Sun Microsystems, who issued them a $100,000 check. On September 4, 1998, they formally established Google Inc. and transitioned from their Stanford dormitory to a leased garage in Menlo Park, California. During this pivotal period, they brought on board their first team member, Craig Silverstein, who was concurrently pursuing graduate studies at Stanford.
The Rise of Google
Google quickly gained popularity among web users for its fast and accurate search results. It also attracted advertisers who wanted to reach potential customers online. In October 2000, Google launched AdWords, an online advertising platform that allowed advertisers to bid on keywords related to their products or services. AdWords used an auction system that matched ads to users’ search queries based on relevance and quality. AdWords became one of Google’s main sources of revenue and enabled it to expand its operations and infrastructure.
Google also started to diversify its product portfolio by acquiring or developing new technologies and services. Some of the notable acquisitions include:
- YouTube, the world’s largest video-sharing platform, acquired in 2006 for $1.65 billion.
- Android, the world’s most widely used mobile operating system, acquired in 2005 for an undisclosed amount.
- Waze, a popular navigation app that uses crowdsourced data from drivers, acquired in 2013 for about $1 billion.
- Nest Labs, a maker of smart home devices such as thermostats and smoke detectors, acquired in 2014 for $3.2 billion.
- DeepMind, a leading artificial intelligence research company that created AlphaGo, a program that defeated the world champion of Go, acquired in 2014 for about $500 million.
Some of the notable products developed by Google include:
- Gmail, a free email service that offers 15 GB of storage space and advanced features such as spam filtering and smart reply.
- Google Maps, a web mapping service that provides directions, traffic information, satellite imagery, street view, and more.
- Google Chrome, a web browser that is fast, secure, and customizable.
- Google Photos, a photo and video storage and sharing service that offers unlimited storage space and smart features such as face recognition and automatic album creation.
- Google Assistant, a virtual assistant that can answer questions, perform tasks, control smart devices, and more using natural language.
- Google Cloud Platform (GCP), a suite of cloud computing services that offer infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), software as a service (SaaS), data analytics, machine learning, and more.
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The Evolution of Google
In 2015, Google underwent a major restructuring that created Alphabet Inc., a holding company that became the parent company of Google and several other subsidiaries. The move was intended to separate Google’s core businesses from its more experimental ventures and allow each entity to operate more independently and efficiently.
Some of the subsidiaries under Alphabet include:
- Google LLC, which includes Google Search, YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps, Android, Chrome, Google Cloud, Google Ads, Google Play, and more.
- Google X (also known as X Development), which is a research and development lab that works on “moonshot” projects that aim to solve big global problems using breakthrough technology. Some of the projects include Waymo (self-driving cars), Loon (internet balloons), Wing (drone delivery), and Verily (life sciences).
- Google AI, which is a division that focuses on artificial intelligence research and applications. Some of the projects include TensorFlow (an open-source machine learning framework), Google Brain (a deep learning research team), and Google Research (a broad research organization that covers various fields of computer science).
- Calico, which is a biotechnology company that aims to extend human lifespan and healthspan by combating aging and age-related diseases.
- CapitalG, which is a growth equity fund that invests in late-stage technology companies such as Airbnb, Lyft, Snap, Stripe, and more.
- GV (formerly Google Ventures), which is a venture capital fund that invests in early-stage technology startups such as Uber, Slack, 23andMe, and more.
The Future of Google
Google has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a search engine. Today, it is one of the world’s most influential and innovative companies that touches the lives of billions of people every day. It has also been at the forefront of advancing science and technology in various domains such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology, and more.
As Google celebrates its 25th birthday, it also looks forward to the next 25 years and beyond. In a blog post published on September 4, 2023, Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote:
“Our search for answers will drive extraordinary technology progress over the next 25 years. We’ll continue to push the boundaries of computing and AI to create more helpful products for everyone. We’ll keep working to make information universally accessible and useful. And we’ll do it all with a deep sense of responsibility — to our users, our partners, our employees and society as a whole.”
Happy birthday, Google! Thank you for 25 years of curiosity and innovation!