Google Turns 14, Was Initially Called ‘BackRub’

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Apparently today is Google’s 14th birthday. Though the company’s official history makes no mention of September 27, the birthday cake Google Doodle – complete with 14 candles and hovertext that reads “Google’s 14th Birthday” – seals it.

(MORE: Google Doodles: A Photo History)

Some highlights from the timeline of events leading up to the September 27, 1998 launch:

In 1995, Larry Page visits Stanford. He has graduated from the University of Michigan and is considering Stanford for grad school. As fate would have it, Sergey Brin is his campus tour guide. “According to some accounts, they disagree about almost everything during this first meeting,” says Google.

By 1996, Page and Brin are both grad students and they’re collaborating on a search engine called “BackRub” – here’s the archived version of the site. It includes links to Brin’s homepage (which is awesome) and Page’s homepage (which is sparse) as they appeared on Stanford’s servers. Sergey’s cool animated GIF for his profile photo is truly mesmerizing.

Sergey Brin — Stanford.edu

In 1997, Page and Brin decide to rename BackRub to something else. “Google” is born. It’s “a play on the word ‘googol,’ a mathematical term for the number represented by the numeral 1 followed by 100 zeros. The use of the term reflects their mission to organize a seemingly infinite amount of information on the web,” says Google.

Can you imagine if they kept the original name? “Let me BackRub that real quick.”

By 1998, Google is building up steam. In August, “Sun co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim writes a check for $100,000″ so Page and Brin can get down to business. The check is written to “Google, Inc.” but Page and Brin don’t officially incorporate until early September. They then open a bank account so they can deposit the check.

Page and Brin begin working out of Susan Wojcicki’s garage in September as well. Today, Wojcicki is the Senior Vice President of Advertising at Google. After the check clears, presumably, Craig Silverstein – a computer science grad student Page and Brin know from Stanford — is hired as Google’s first employee. And though there’s no mention of it in the company timeline, Google apparently becomes officially official on September 27, 1998.

The entire timeline is worth a read if you’re interested in Google’s history. And, as mentioned, Sergey Brin’s archived Stanford homepage is pretty fascinating. There are links to some of his personal photos and fun quips such as “My Mom and Dad are on the WWW. My brother’s elementary school is also online.”

PHOTOS: Life in the Googleplex

2 comments
Eric Ward
Eric Ward

I remember people in the then nascent SEO field arguing over whether Google could survive against Infoseek and Lycos and AltaVista and Webcrawler.