The internet behemoth we know as Google today began as a college dissertation by then-Stanford Ph.D. student Larry Page, who wanted to explore the mathematical properties of the internet, specifically how linking structures work. Using the idea that university research papers often had to list citations, Page conceived a system that rewarded websites that were frequently “cited” a.k.a. being linked to.
Fellow Stanford student Sergey Brin soon joined the project, and the two developed the PageRank algorithm that ranked websites by not just the number of links citing them, but also the quality of those links. The pair gave the search engine, which still only ran on Stanford’s servers at the time, the unfortunate name “BackRub”.
BackRub was not the first internet search engine. Yahoo, also founded by Stanford alums, was already active and dominant at the time. But Page and Brin’s idea to use an automated algorithm to scour the entire internet and rank pages by quality and quantity of backlinks was far more efficient than Yahoo’s method, which used physical staff to list an index of websites. Of course, nobody knew Google’s method was far superior then.
September 1998: Google goes official
Page and Brin changed BackRub’s name to Google (after the mathematical term “googol” meaning one, followed by 100 zeroes) sometime in 1997, and officially registered Google.com on September 17th, 1997, but it wasn’t until September 4th of the next year did Google become an official company. So, September 4 is the day most media use as Google’s official birthday.
June 2000: Yahoo concedes Google’s search solution is better
Although Yahoo was still highly valuable and leading ahead of Google in search engine market share in 2000, Yahoo executives realized their index-based approach could not keep up with the fast-growing vast internet. And on June 26th, 2000, Yahoo announced it would be using Google’s search engine.
But Yahoo wasn’t accepting defeat. It merely saw the partnership with Google as a temporary one while Yahoo worked to rebuild its own search engine.
April 1st, 2004: Google launches Gmail
April 29th, 2004: Google goes public
April 2004 would prove to be a busy month for Google. The company filed an IPO (Initial Public Offering) on April 19th, and by April 29th, the company was officially public, with an evaluation of $27 billion.
February 8th, 2005: Google launches Maps
The mapping service began life in early 2005 as a desktop-only service, but it really wouldn’t be until smartphones became ubiquitous, did Google Maps become the must-use service it is today. According to The Guardian, Steve Jobs personally called Google to work together to ensure the app launched with the first iPhone.
October 22nd, 2008: the first Android phone launches
The HTC Dream (known as T-Mobile G1 in the US) was announced in September 2008 and hit stores in October 2008. It wasn’t as elegant as the iPhone 3G which was already out at the time, but it introduced Android to the world, an open-source mobile OS with deep integration of Google’s services.
October 20th, 2016: Google ventures into hardware with the Pixel
Even though Google Pixel phones never sold enough to be considered a hit or even mainstream, its launch is still a crucial moment in Google’s history, as it marked the software juggernaut’s first real foray into hardware. Sure, Google had toyed with the idea before with the Nexus series, but the Pixel was supposedly Google’s version of the iPhone — a device with hardware and software built by Google. Of course, this wasn’t quite true with the first few Pixels, as the hardware was manufactured by Taiwan phone maker HTC.
August 2, 2021: Google announces its own smartphone silicon
Google teased/previewed its upcoming Pixel 6 smartphone last month, and while the phone is quite a looker, the big news coming from this announcement is the fact it will run on Google’s own SoC, Tensor. While it’s not known if Google manufactured all parts of the SoC, it’s confirmed Google at the very least designed it from the ground up.