January 22, 2019

The BackRub That Could

The BackRub That Could

Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the co-founders of Google, are definitely big fans of wordplay. They seem to be attracted to company names which are ‘goofy’ but still hugely significant at the same time.

An example of this came in the summer of 2015 when they rolled out Google’s new operational structure under a new parent company, Alphabet.

Still, this certainly isn’t the first time that the two techpreneurs have experimented with quirky language when naming a company or product.

In fact, way back in 1996, before the existence of Google, Brin and Page were already coming up with nerdy names for their search engines.

The Birth of Backrub

According to David Koller, an old friend of the duo, from their time at Stanford University, Brin and Page’s initial foray into the new online world of search engines in 1996 was known as – wait for it – BackRub.

David said that they gave the application this wacky name since it worked by analysing “backlinks” on the web to determine how important a particular website was in relation to other similar sites. The BackRub search engine was run off Stanford’s servers until the school’s bandwidth could no longer support it.

However, by 1997, Page had decided that the name BackRub was not good enough for his creation. Alongside officemates at Stanford University, Page started to workshop different names that could be used for the search engine technology. He was looking for a name that could indicate just how much data the search engine was indexing.

A Happy Accident

The name “Google” was originated by a Stanford grad student known as Sean Anderson. Initially, Anderson had suggested the name “googolplex” in one of the brainstorming sessions.

Page then countered it with the much shorter “googol.” A Googol is a number consisting of the digit 1 trailed by 100 zeroes. On the other hand, a googolplex is 1 trailed by googol zeroes.

When Anderson performed a check to see if the domain “googol.com” was taken, he accidentally typed “google.com” instead.

Surprisingly, Larry Page liked the name “Google” even better. Brin and Page then registered “google.com” on September 15, 1997.

Google Today

Without a doubt, Google is one of the names that has defined the Internet age. What started out as a simple hobby project for two university students, has grown into the Internet’s biggest search engines and one of the largest companies in the world. It is incredible to think that “Googling” hasn’t always been synonymous with “finding it online.”

When it was launched, Google was entering a field that had older, established search engines that included AltaVista, AskJeeves and Yahoo Search.

However, they used algorithms which did not always give users what they were looking for, and Google changed the game with its PageRank algorithm.

When Google went public on August 19, 2004, the company sold 19,605,052 shares of stocks at $85 per share and was valued at $27 billion. Many ‘backrubs’ later, it is currently valued at $132.1 billion – 500% more than when it was launched.