The world’s most famous search engine turns 21 this Friday, September 27.
Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are word-game fanatics. A perfect example of this is when Google launched its new operating structure in 2015: Alphabet.
Here’s how Page explained the name in his blog:
“We liked the name Alphabet because it means a collection of letters that represent language, one of humanity’s most important innovations, and is the core of how we index with Google search! We also like that it means alpha‑bet (Alpha is investment return above benchmark)”, he wrote.
But this was not the first time the duo had experimented with language. In 1996, before Google existed as a company, Page and Brin were already inventing names for search engines.
According to mathematician David Koller of Stanford University, and Google’s own website, Page and Brin’s first foray into the world of search engines in 1996 was called “BackRub”.
They called it that because the program analyzed the “backlinks” of the web to understand a site’s importance and which others it was linked to. BackRub was used on Stanford servers until it finally took up too much bandwidth.
However, Page decided in 1997 that the name BackRub was simply not good enough. According to Koller, Page and his roommates at Stanford began thinking of different names for search engine technology, names that would evoke the amount of data they indexed.
The name “Google” actually comes from a Stanford graduate student named Sean Anderson, writes Koller. During a brainstorming session, Anderson suggested the word “googolplex”, and Page responded with the shorter “googol”. A googol is an extremely large number: the number 10 raised to the power of 100, which written in its entirety would be a 1 followed by 100 zeros. That’s a number greater than the number of hydrogen atoms in the known universe. The American mathematician Edward Kasner first introduced the term googol in 1938.
Anderson registered the domain. Shortly afterwards, on September 15, 1997, he took the step of registering the name “google.com”. In a few months it became the most powerful internet domain in the world.