Image Credit: http://web.archive.org
Two Stanford University students, working on a research project in order to receive their PhDs, changed the way the world interacted with the information superhighway when they officially incorporated Google on September 4, 1998. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, having believed search engines could deliver results based more on site quality than keyword quantity, devised a system by which to rank individual URLs. A simple but revolutionary concept, PageRank, flipped the Internet on its axis.
Working in the computer science department at Stanford, Page and Brin got started on determining a better algorithm in January 1996. Frustrated by the somewhat haphazard way search engines worked at the time — focused primarily on the number of times a term appeared on an individual page — the young students decided to focus more on relevance. If a particular page was part of a larger website and was receiving links from other URLs, then it is more likely to have the particular content the user is searching for, they theorized.
Calling the system PageRank — similar in scope to the RankDex system used by Baidu founder Robin Li — Page and Brin cleverly named the search engine “BackRub” at first, due to the manner in which it sought out backlinks as a means to determine a site’s rank. Settling in time on the name “Google” in reference to the massive number googol, google.stanford.edu became its first home. In mid-September 1997, the domain name Google.com was registered and the fledgling company became independent.
A year later, after a $100,000 contribution from their first investor, Page and Brin incorporated the company on September 4, 1998 in the garage of friend (and now Vice President of Product Management and Engineering) Susan Wojcicki. Within months, Page and Brin were ready to cash out in order to focus on their schoolwork.
Determined to loose themselves of the burden of running a business while attempting to further their education, they approached Excite looking for a $1 million buyout. CEO George Bell baulked at the suggestion his company needed what Google had to offer, even though Page and Brin had been convinced to take just $750,000. Six months later, Google raised $25 million from a series of investors and experienced rapid growth. Web surfers found the improved results desirable and, after adding a feature that allowed advertising in 2000, revenues exploded.
Now a powerhouse in the web search industry, Google would soon become an integral part of the worldwide web’s culture and, in time, work its way into the lexicon as both a noun and a verb. Just shy of five years after officially founding the company, Google was put on the stock market with a then-record initial public offering that valued the company at $23 billion. Three years later, the initial stock valuation of $85 had been dwarfed — shares reached the $700 mark at the end of October 2007.