The History of Google and How It Was Invented

Learn About Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the Inventors of Google

Google Founders
Larry Page (L), Co-Founder and President, Products, and Sergey Brin, Co-Founder and President, Technology, at Google's campus headquarters in Mountain View, California, 2003. Kim Kulish/Corbis via Getty Images

Search engines or portals have been around since the early days of the internet. But it was Google, a relative latecomer, that would go on to become the premier destination for finding just about anything on the world wide web. 

So Wait, What's a Search Engine?

A search engine is a program that searches the Internet and finds web pages for the user based on the keywords that you submit. There are several parts to a search engine, such as for instance:

  • search engine software including: boolean operators, search fields, display format, etc.
  • spider software
  • a database
  • algorithms that rank results for relevancy

Inspiration Behind the Name

The very popular search engine called Google was invented by computer scientists Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The site was named after a googol - the name for the number 1 followed by 100 zeros - found in the book "Mathematics and the Imagination" by Edward Kasner and James Newman. To the site's founders, the name represents the immense amount of information that a search engine has to sift through.

BackRub, PageRank and a New Way to Deliver Search Results

In 1995, Page and Brin met at Stanford University while they were graduate students in computer science. By January of 1996, the pair began collaborating on writing a program for a search engine dubbed BackRub, named after its ability to do backlink analysis.

The search engine was unique in that it used a technology they developed called PageRank, which determined a website's relevance by taking into account the number of pages, along with the importance of the pages, that linked back to the original site.

At the time, search engines ranked results based on how often a search term appeared on a web page. 

Next, fueled by the rave reviews that BackRub received, Page and Brin began working on developing Google. It was very much a shoestring project at the time. Operating out of their dorm rooms, the pair built a server network using cheap, used and borrowed personal computers.

They even maxed their credit cards buying terabytes of disks at discount prices. 

They first tried to license their search engine technology, but failed to find anyone that wanted their product at an early stage of development. Page and Brin then decided to keep Google in the meantime and seek more financing, improve the product and take it to the public themselves once they had a good product.

Let Me Just Write You a Check

The strategy worked and after more development Google finally turned into a hot commodity. Sun Microsystems co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim said after a quick demo of Google, "Instead of us discussing all the details, why don't I just write you a check?"

He did just that. The $100,000 check was made out to Google Inc., though Google as a legal entity did not exist yet. It didn't take long, however, as Page and Brin incorporated within two weeks, cashed the check and raised $900,000 more for their initial round of funding.

In September of 1998, Google Inc. opened in Menlo Park, California and Google.com, a beta search engine, was answering 10,000 search queries every day. On September 21, 1999, Google officially removed the beta (test status) from its title.