When was Google invented? How search engine evolved from a student project as Doodle celebrates 25th birthday

Google is celebrating its 25th anniversary this month, and is marking the occasion with a special Doodle today.

The animation hows the evolution of the company’s logo from its inception in September 1988, when a handful of friends worked out of a California garage, to today – as a company that has almost 200,000 employees.

Google said: “Much has changed since 1998 – including our logo as seen in today’s Doodle – but the mission has remained the same: to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Billions of people from all over the globe use Google to search, connect, work, play, and so much more!”

When was Google founded?

Google was officially founded on 4 September 1988 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, but its story dates back to 1995. Brin was a student at Stanford University in California, and had volunteered to give a group of potential new students – including Page – a tour around campus.

The following year – with the help of another student, Scott Hassan – they built a search engine that used links to determine how important individual pages of the internet were.

The initial idea was born from Page’s thesis idea, which was to explore the mathematical properties of the World Wide Web. he was encouraged to pick this idea by his supervisor, Terry Winograd. Page later called this “the best advice I ever got”.

Sergey Brin and Larry Page, co-founders of Google (Photo: Getty)

He and Brin fed their findings to Hassan, who wrote much of the code for the engine, but left before Google was officially incorporated.

The search engine was initially named Backrub, but this was soon changed to Google. It is a play on the word “googol”, which is the mathematical expression for the number 1 followed by 100 zeroes.

Brin and Page received funding for their work as they were part of the Stanford Digital Library Project, which aimed “to develop the enabling technologies for a single, integrated and universal digital library” and was backed by the National Science Foundation. They were also supported by a Stanford-led computer science research team that has links to the CIA and NSA.

The first version of Google was launched in August 1996 on Stanford’s own website with the domain google.stanford.edu, using up half of Stanford’s bandwidth.

How did Google start growing?

Over the next few years, Google drew the attention of both the academic community and Silicon Valley investors.

In August 1998, Sun Microsystems co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim wrote Page and Brin a cheque for $100,000, and on 4 September Google Inc. was officially born. It was formally incorporated in their friend – and future YouTube CEO – Susan Wojcicki’s garage in Menlo Park, California.

The “our story” section of Google’s website says: “Clunky desktop computers, a ping-pong table and bright blue carpet set the scene for those early days and late nights (the tradition of keeping things colourful continues to this day).”

By the end of 1998, Google had an index of about 60 million pages, and had started accepting adverts on its search engine. It was already being favourably compared to pre-existing competitors like AOL and Yahoo, but it was not until the 2000s that it started to really explode.

This was after Brin and Page almost sold the company to American web portal company Excite in 1999, but its CEO, George Bell, rejected the opportunity to purchase it for as little as $750,000.

In 2000 Google became the client engine for Yahoo, and by the time their partnership ended in 2004 users were searching on Google 200 million times a day.

The company’s initial public offering (IPO) in 2004 raised $1.66bn for the company and made Brin and Page instant billionaires.

By the end of 2011 the number of users had grown to 3 billion. It was around this time that “to google” became a widely-used verb – proving the company’s near-total dominance in the search market.

How big is Google now?

According to recent data there are at least 8.5 billion Google searches per day, but the company has branched well beyond just search.

In 2006 the company bought YouTube for $1.65bn in stock, and the video-streaming site currently has more than 2.3 billion active users.

Google also owns the mobile operating system Android, which has 3.3 billion users, and in 2013 launched its own phone, the Google Pixel.

The company has a multitude of other products, from Google Chrome – the world’s leading web browser with a 63 per cent market share – to Gmail, Google Maps, Google Earth and Google Books.

Since 2015 the overarching company has been known as Alphabet, with Google being a subsidiary of Alphabet. As of September 2023 Alphabet has a market cap of more than $1.6tn.