Google Is Founded Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The incredibly successful Google search engine began as a research project for two Stanford University graduate students who wanted to address the inadequacies of Internet search engines and ended up creating a multibillion-dollar business.

Summary of Event

Although the World Wide Web had been around since 1989, the general public did not begin to become aware of all the possibilities it offered for finding information until the mid-1990’s. Internet users then looked for something to guide them through the increasingly large maze of sites. Search engines such as Excite, HotBot, Infoseek, Lycos, Magellan, and WebCrawler all took different approaches, but each returned results in a random pattern. These search engines were designed to find as many sites as possible without determining the quality of those sites. Two Stanford University graduate students, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, decided to devise a different approach. Internet;search engines Google search engine Search engines, Internet Computing, applied;search engines World Wide Web;search engines [kw]Google Is Founded (Sept. 7, 1998) [kw]Founded, Google Is (Sept. 7, 1998) Internet;search engines Google search engine Search engines, Internet Computing, applied;search engines World Wide Web;search engines [g]North America;Sept. 7, 1998: Google Is Founded[10140] [g]United States;Sept. 7, 1998: Google Is Founded[10140] [c]Business and labor;Sept. 7, 1998: Google Is Founded[10140] [c]Communications and media;Sept. 7, 1998: Google Is Founded[10140] [c]Computers and computer science;Sept. 7, 1998: Google Is Founded[10140] [c]Trade and commerce;Sept. 7, 1998: Google Is Founded[10140] Brin, Sergey Page, Larry Motwani, Rajeev Bechtolsheim, Andy

Google cofounders Larry Page (left) and Sergey Brin at the Googleplex headquarters in Mountain View, California. Google became the dominant Internet search engine by the beginning of the twenty-first century.

(AP/Wide World Photos)

Brin and Page met when Brin conducted an orientation tour for new graduate students at Stanford in 1995. The two young men came from similar academic backgrounds. Page’s father was a computer science professor at Michigan State University, and his mother was a database consultant who taught computer programming at Michigan State. Brin’s father was a mathematics professor at the University of Maryland, and his mother was a scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The Brins had immigrated to the United States from the Soviet Union in 1979.

The graduate students were lucky to find themselves at Stanford, where such technological firms as Hewlett-Packard and Sun (for Stanford University Network) Microsystems had received their inspirations. Such entrepreneurship was encouraged by the university. In 1994, another pair of Stanford graduate students, David Filo Filo, David and Jerry Yang, Yang, Jerry created a different method of organizing the Web from the search engines that employed programs called crawlers to locate sites. Filo and Yang’s Yahoo! Yahoo! search engine used a team of editors to find the best sites on all subjects and place them into categories. This Web-portal approach bypassed the unpredictability of other search engines but did not address the need for speedy results. Many Internet users did not have the patience to make their way through directories and subdirectories to find the information, products, and services they wanted.

One of the first steps toward the creation of Google was the establishment by Brin and his faculty adviser, Professor Rajeev Motwani, of MIDAS (mining data at Stanford), a research group aimed at finding how the data-mining concept (which includes predicting the behavior of consumers) could be applied to organizing the Internet. After discovering that the search engine AltaVista, which claimed to find more sites than other search engines, merely reported on the links it found, Page told one of his professors that he planned to download the entire Web onto his computer, thinking that would take a week, only to find that the Web was much larger than he had expected. Page and Brin then set about analyzing Web links, estimating that they cost Stanford’s computer science department $20,000 every time they sent a spider program out to report back on the entire Internet. Brin was attracted to the project because of his interest in extracting information from large sets of random data.

Page decided that the number of links pointing toward a particular site indicated its popularity, and he and Brin had to come up with a way of measuring the relevance of sites. They arrived at a mathematical formula, first named BackRub and later PageRank, PageRank[Pagerank] hoping that it might lead to a dissertation topic, and, together with Motwani, they created a search engine for internal use at Stanford in 1996. Needing a name, they decided on Google, a misspelling of “googol,” a mathematical term signifying an enormous number. Unlike the Web sites of many search engines at the time, instead of including numerous links on the Google home page, Brin and Page decided to go with a clean, uncluttered look (later, other search engines also adopted this look). Still academics, they published two papers about how their creation worked.

In 1998, Brin and Page tried to sell PageRank for $1 million to AltaVista, planning to resume their studies afterward, but their offer was rejected because AltaVista’s parent company, Digital Equipment Corporation, Digital Equipment Corporation was not receptive to outside technology. Excite, Yahoo!, and other search engines also turned them down. Yahoo! was designed to keep its users on its site to see advertisements, shop, and play games, not go off immediately to other sites.

David Cheriton, Cheriton, David head of Stanford’s Distributed Systems Group, arranged a meeting for Brin and Page with Andy Bechtolsheim, a founder of Sun Microsystems and a vice president at Cisco Systems. Excited about Google’s potential, Bechtolsheim gave Brin and Page $100,000 for new equipment. Encouraged by Bechtolsheim’s enthusiasm and generosity, they incorporated the company as Google Inc. in a friend’s garage in Menlo Park on September 7, 1998, with Page as chief executive officer and Brin as president. They raised additional capital, mostly from Silicon Valley investors, and then, in 1999, two firms, Sequoia Capital Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers[Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers] provided $25 million to take Google to the next level.

To justify these investments, Brin and Page had to create a business plan. Strongly opposed to the type of advertising seen on Yahoo! and other search engines, they decided that ads would not clutter their site but would appear in their users’ search results. A search for “Ford cars,” for example, would lead first to text-only advertisements for the Ford Motor Company and its dealerships. Revenue was based on the number of visits Google users made to these commercial sites. Rapid growth followed, with the search engine going from 500,000 daily queries in 1999 to 200 million a day by 2004; the company grew from three employees in 1998 to more than nine thousand by 2006.

Brin and Page tried to model their company after the academic environment with which they were so familiar. The increasingly large staff was composed of mathematicians, technologists, and engineers, without the usual layers of middle managers found in most companies. Google expected its employees to spend 20 percent of their time exploring whatever interested them, with the assumption that some of this research would eventually enhance the company’s operation. Its corporate motto was “Don’t be evil.” In 2007, Fortune magazine ranked Google as the best American company to work for.

On August 19, 2004, Google went public at $85 per share, raising nearly $2 billion. In less than a year, Google’s stock price increased to more than $300 per share, and the value of the company reached $80 billion.

Significance

Because Brin, Page, their colleagues, and their investors saw a problem that could be solved and saw value where others did not, Google became the dominant search engine by the beginning of the twenty-first century and a giant in electronic commerce. While similar companies were satisfied with their initial successes, Google continued to work at being not bigger but better. Within an amazingly short period, most Americans made Google the place to start when looking for anything on the Web.

Google gradually refined its search mechanism and created separate search engines for images, maps, news, and video. It also branched off into specialized versions. Because students were some of its heaviest users, Google Scholar was created to locate scholarly books and articles, ranking the results by how often these publications were cited by other resources. Because most of this material is not free, academic institutions eventually were able to create links within Google Scholar to the subscribed databases, such as JSTOR and Project Muse, available to their constituents. The most controversial development was Google Book Search, which involved digitizing books in the collections of the New York Public Library and the libraries of Stanford University, Harvard University, the University of Michigan, and Oxford University. As a result, several publishers sued Google to protect their copyrights. Internet;search engines Google search engine Search engines, Internet Computing, applied;search engines World Wide Web;search engines

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Battelle, John. The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture. New York: Penguin Books, 2005. Describes the history of search engines before Google and examines Google’s rapid economic success in detail.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Langville, Amy, and Carl D. Meyer. Google’s PageRank and Beyond: The Science of Search Engine Rankings. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2006. Presents a technical analysis of how Google works, with emphasis on the search engine’s mathematical basis.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Miller, William, and Rita M. Pellen, eds. Libraries and Google. Binghamton, N.Y.: Haworth Press, 2005. Collection of essays discusses the impact of Google on libraries and libraries’ relationships with the search engine. Areas covered include the limitations of Google and debates about the value of Google Scholar.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Vise, David A., and Mark Malseed. The Google Story. New York: Delacorte Press, 2005. Provides a history of the development of the search engine, with emphasis on the business side of the venture and the personalities of Brin and Page. Includes photographs and appendixes on Google search tips, the Google Labs Aptitude Test, and Google’s financial scorecard.

Cisco Systems Goes Public

Development of HTML

Release of Netscape Navigator 1.0

Rise of the Internet and the World Wide Web

Sun Microsystems Introduces Java

Categories: History Content