On this day in 1998, search engine firm Google, co-founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who met at Stanford University, files for incorporation in California. Google went on to become the planet’s most-used search engine, and the word “google” entered the lexicon as a verb meaning to search the World Wide Web for information about a person or topic. Google eventually expanded its products and services to include advertising programs, statistical tools, email, maps, a web browser and a mobile operating system. It has become one of the world’s largest tech companies.
In 1996, Page and Brin, then in their early 20s and graduate students in computer science at Stanford, started working on a search engine for the burgeoning web and called it BackRub. In September of the following year, they registered the domain name Google.com. The name is play on “googol,” a term for the numeral 1 followed by 100 zeros; the co-founders thought the moniker was a good way to symbolize their mission of organizing the vast amount of data on the web. In August 1998, Page and Brin received $100,000 from an investor. That same month, prior to leaving for the Burning Man festival in Nevada, the pair added a small drawing to the Google logo to let people know they’d be out of the office; thus launching the Google doodle. (Since then, a wide variety of doodles have appeared on Google homepages to celebrate holidays and other events.) After Google filed for incorporation in September 1998, its first office was in a garage in Menlo Park, California. In February 1999, the startup, which by then had eight employees, relocated to an office in the neighboring city of Palo Alto.
Google opened is first international office, in Tokyo, in 2001. Three years later, more than 800 Google employees moved to a new corporate headquarters, dubbed the Googleplex, in Mountain View, California. Soon after, the company launched an email service, Gmail. Also in 2004, Google held an initial public offering that raised $1.67 billion and valued the company at $23 billion (a decade later, in 2014, Google’s market capitalization was $390 billion). A long string of product roll-outs followed, such as Google Maps and Google Analytics (a service to measure website performance) in 2005; Google Calendar and translation service Google Translate in 2006; a mobile operating system, Android, was announced in 2007 (the first phone built on the system was released a year later); and a web browser, Google Chrome, in 2008. Google also acquired a number of businesses, including YouTube, the video-sharing site, which it snapped up in 2006.
Around 2010, the tech giant established Google X, a secretive lab dedicated to developing groundbreaking, “moonshot” products such as self-driving cars and delivery drones. In 2015, Google restructured its operations—which by then also included a biotech business focused on extending human lifespan; a maker of Internet-connected devices for the home; and a high-speed Internet service, among other ventures—into a conglomerate called Alphabet. At the time, the web search engine that started it all in 1998 continued to dominate the competition, handling more than 3 billion searches a day.