Most students are happy just to get a passing grade on their research projects. Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded an empire on theirs.
When Page and Brin set out to research the mathematical properties of the internet back in 1995, they had little idea their project would lead to the creation of the digital behemoth known as Google.
While the international tech company is now worth more than the GDP of many countries, Google’s origins are rather humble.
Here are a few fun facts you might not have known about the history and formation of Google.
1. Google was originally known as “Project Backrub”
When Brin and Page first developed an algorithm for searching the net, they dubbed it “BackRub”. This algorithm was then used to measure and rank the importance of webpages based on inbound links; the skeleton of what would become Google Search was formed.
Changing the name from BackRub to Google was probably a smart choice. Can you imagine what life would be like constantly saying “Let me just BackRub it” every time you needed to look up the answer to something?
2. Google is a multi-billion dollar spelling mistake
That’s right, Google is perhaps the biggest and most public spelling mistake ever made. Page and Brin settled on “Googol” as the name for their search engine, referring to the impossibly large number of the same name (1 followed by a hundred zeros).
When it came time to register the domain name, they were delighted to find that Google.com was available. Good reason for that – until then, Google wasn’t even a real word! When they later discovered the word they’d looked up was an incorrect spelling of “googol”, they decided to roll with it anyway.
Another fun fact – the term “googol” to describe the number 10100 was originally coined by a nine year old boy. At one point, his family considered suing Google for their use of the word.
3. The founders originally didn’t even like each other
Despite similar visions and interests in the World Wide Web, Page and Brin certainly didn’t start off as friends. As soon as they met, the pair clashed on nearly every topic they discussed and both referred to the other as “obnoxious”.
Despite (or even because of) their passion for arguments, the two ended up becoming friends and would later join forces on a research project that would change the internet forever.
4. The first Google computer was made from Lego
This one sounds like a bad urban legend, but it’s true. Due to budget constraints (don’t forget, even the founders of Google were once poor college students), the Google team fashioned custom-made server racks out of Lego bricks.
Today, Google is estimated to run more than one million servers in data centres around the world to handle the three-billion-plus searches made internationally every day. Hard to imagine it all started with a single server built from a children’s toy!
5. Google was officially ‘verbified’
Google received one of its biggest honours when the Oxford English Dictionary officially added “Google” as a verb in 2006. Google’s influence became so widespread that “to Google” became synonymous with searching for information on the internet.
6. Google was nearly sold for less than a million dollars
The next time you make a bad decision, spare a thought for the former CEO of internet company Excite, George Bell. When Bell was made an offer to buy Google for $1 million back in 1999, he declined. The price was knocked down to a steal at $750,000 but he still declined, saying the asking price was too high.
Bell couldn’t have predicted the company he turned down would later go on to make hundreds of billions of dollars and become a global phenomenon. But as it is, Bell’s refusal has been enshrined in the history books as one of the worst business decisions ever made.
7.Google introduced a search engine that reads your mind
In April of 2000, Google announced the release of “MentalPlex”, a search engine that reads your mind to determine your search results. Sounds unbelievable? Well… yeah.
MentalPlex was actually the first of what would become several cheeky Google hoaxes announced each year on April Fool’s Day. Other Google hoaxes have included an animal translator, a Google Maps treasure hunt, edible cable fibre and announcing Google would be forming a colony on Mars.
Given that Google is worth more than $350 billion today, the last one might not be too far off from becoming reality!
Did you know the very first Google Doodle was made in August 1998 in celebration of the Burning Man festival? Check out our favourite Google Doodles throughout the years!