Google's cofounders are stepping down from their company. Here are 43 photos showing Google's rise from a Stanford dorm room to global internet superpower

Randi Lynn Beach/APGoogle’s co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

More than 21 years after incorporating, Google is a global superpower.

Google is not only the most-visited website in the world, but it also makes Android, the most popular operating system in the world, and Google Chrome, the most popular web browser. It operates at least 15 massive data centres worldwide.

However, Google wasn’t always that way. What started as a mission to organise the world’s information in a Stanford dorm room has bloomed into a massive public company, whose corporate structure was overhauled in 2015 to turn it into a business operating under the name Alphabet.

With cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s announcement they’re stepping down from the company they built, Google CEO Sundar Pichai will become the head of both Google and Alphabet.

Here’s a look at the more than 21-year history of Google, in photos:


Google technically got its start in 1996, when two Stanford PhD students named Larry Page and Sergey Brin had the idea for “BackRub,” a revolutionary search engine using a technology called “PageRank” that would rank web pages based on how many other web pages linked back to them.

GoogleGoogle cofounders Larry Page, left, and Sergey Brin.

Page and Brin’s first office was actually their two Stanford dorm rooms. The “BackRub” name didn’t last long, as they decided that a “googol” — the number one with a hundred zeroes after it — better reflected the amount of data they were trying to sift through. The slightly friendlier name “Google” was chosen for the fledgling company.

Google

The first-ever Google server was built in a custom case made out of Legos and housed on the Stanford campus. At first, it was just at google.stanford.edu, but the Google.com domain name was registered on September 15th, 1997.

Wikimedia Commons

Eventually, Google drained too much of Stanford’s bandwidth, and the IT department kicked them out. Page and Brin relocated the fledgling company in the garage of future Google employee and YouTube head Susan Wojcicki.

MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ / AP Images

Around the same time they moved into the garage, Brin and Page got a crucial $US100,000 seed investment from Sun Microsystems founder Andy Bechtolsheim. With funding in hand, Google officially incorporated 21 years ago in their garage headquarters on September 4th, 1998.

Wikimedia CommonsAndy Bechtolsheim.

Google’s first homepage was not much of a looker. Neither Page nor Brin had much expertise with the website programming language HTML, choosing to focus their efforts on the algorithms that made it run.

Google

Not long after Google officially incorporated, the first-ever Google Doodle appeared in 1998 as a homage to Burning Man, the annual festival in the Nevada desert. Brin and Page were attending the festival, and wanted to let people know they weren’t around to do damage control if the site broke.

Google

In 1998, Page and Brin tapped Craig Silverstein, a fellow PhD candidate at Stanford, to be Google’s first employee.

Business Insider / Jillian D’Onfro

At this point, Google was running in a shared data centre in Santa Clara, California. Larry Page talked the data centre owner into giving Google a break on their bandwidth bills because most of the company’s web traffic was inbound, and the data centre’s usual customers focused on pushing data out.

Urs Holze

At one point in 1999, Google was almost acquired by Excite, a leading search engine at the time. Excite would have acquired Google for $US750,000 in cash, Excite’s then CEO George Bell has said. But the the deal fell through for reasons that are still debated, and Google continued on its own.

OneWireFormer Excite CEO George Bell.

Page and Brin decided to make Google into a business, after all. In March of 1999, Google moved into its first-ever office at 165 University Avenue in Palo Alto — the same office building that housed companies like PayPal and Logitech.

Google

Not long after, Google raised its first round of venture capital funding in the form of a $US25 million investment from Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers and Sequoia Capital. That probably bought its developers a lot more beer.

GoogleA photo of Google’s early office.

Google debuted its AdWords product in late 2000, enabling businesses to buy ads related to search terms. By this point, Google was already rising in popularity as a search engine, so it had a steady revenue stream that kept it going through the dot-com burst that claimed so many startups.

A Google ad for its AdWords service.

Google’s star was definitely on the rise, and Brin and Page were becoming rock stars in the tech community for succeeding where everybody else failed.

RANDI LYNN BEACH / AP Images

Around the time it started making money in 2000, Google adopted its famous, but unofficial, corporate philosophy: “Don’t be evil.” In a 2004 letter to shareholders, the cofounders wrote: “We believe strongly that in the long term, we will be better served — as shareholders and in all other ways — by a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short term gains.”

Source: Alphabet


At investor Sequoia’s urging, Brin and Page brought on Eric Schmidt as the company’s first CEO in 2001, leaving the founders free to focus on Google’s technology.

Mario Anzuoni/ReutersEric Schmidt, centre.

By this point, the Google team was growing out of its Palo Alto offices.

Google

So in 2003, Google leased its now-famous Googleplex campus from ailing, old-school tech giant Silicon Graphics International. By 2006, Google was able to buy the Googleplex outright.


The Googleplex became a symbol of Silicon Valley success. Google worked hard to make it a little more whimsical than your average campus. The original main campus building is well-known for having a slide that connects the first two floors.


Plus, Google was the first big tech company to offer free meals to its employees. The Google cafeteria became the stuff of Silicon Valley legend.


It also has a famous dinosaur statue often covered in flamingos. Google employee rumour holds that it’s a reminder to its employees to not go extinct.


On August 19th, 2004, Google had its initial public offering on the stock market, priced at $US85 per share. Today, a share in Google costs $US1,314.

Getty Images

On April 1st, 2004, Google announced a private beta for Gmail, an email service. Because it was on April Fool’s Day, the media and users all thought it was a prank at first.

Play GIFBiz Stone

After the IPO, Google set its sights on expanding past the search engine. From September to October, Google bought startups Keyhole, Where2, and ZipDash, which would go on to form the basis of Google Maps.


In 2005, Google bought a tiny startup that was making an operating system for digital cameras. It was called Android and was led by Andy Rubin.

APAndy Rubin.

In 2006, Google snapped up Upstartle, a company that made a popular web browser-based word processor called Writely. That one would go on to become Google Docs.

Google

2006 also saw Google buy up YouTube, a brand-new video-sharing site that was founded by a bunch of ex-PayPal employees. Google paid $US1.65 billion in stock for YouTube.

YouTubeJawed Karim, YouTube’s cofounder.

Google was getting bigger and bigger. In 2006, Google opened up its first wholly-owned and designed data centre in The Dalles, Oregon, on the banks of the Columbia river.

Google

Google has a history of squeezing out incredibly high levels of efficiency from its data centres with inventive new designs — a history that started at that first Oregon site.

Google

Google was so popular by this point that “Googling” had become an acceptable word for “searching the Internet.” In June of 2006, the verb “google” was added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

In 2008, the HTC Dream hit the market. It was the first-ever Android smartphone that consumers could buy. Today, Google Android is the most popular operating system on the planet.


The year 2008 also saw Google introduce Google Chrome, a web browser that integrated tightly with Google’s growing roster of web services. Google wanted to make sure that on every device, you keep using Google — and looking at Google ads.

Google

In 2011, Schmidt stepped down as Google CEO, though he kept his title as executive chairman. He stuck around to advise Page and Brin, and Page became the new CEO of Google.


With its dominance in search all but locked down, Page’s Google focused on some crazy, next-generation ideas. In 2010, Google announced that it was working on driverless cars that didn’t require a human to operate.

Google

In 2012, Google announced Google Glass, a wearable computer that would present information in your field of vision. The project was led by Brin, Google’s director of special projects. Google Glass didn’t catch on the way people hoped, but it made an impact.

Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesSergey Brin.

In October 2015, Google shocked the world by completely shaking up its corporate structure. Google was turned into a wholly-owned subsidiary of Alphabet, a new parent company. Page became the CEO of Alphabet, and Brin was named president.

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Source: Business Insider


Former Google Chrome head Sundar Pichai was named new Google’s CEO, guiding the future of the newly-formed Alphabet’s most important and profitable businesses — including the Google search engine and YouTube.

Google

Pichai has overseen some of Google’s most significant crises to date. Google came under fire for its role in facilitating the spread of misinformation during the 2016 presidential election, even as YouTube’s algorithm was criticised for promoting conspiracy theories.

Associated Press/Jacquelyn MartinPresident Donald Trump.

2018 was marked by turmoil within Google’s walls, too. Google faced internal backlash after employees rebelled against Project Maven, a drone contract program with the Pentagon. Later, employees voiced their displeasure with Project Dragonfly, an initiative to bring a censored search product to China.

Aly Song/ReutersA Google sign is seen during the China Digital Entertainment Expo and Conference (ChinaJoy) in Shanghai, China August 3, 2018.

Read more about Project Maven here and about Project Dragonfly here from Business Insider.


A dramatic episode came in November 2018, when Google employees walked out en masse around the world to protest what they saw as the company’s mishandling of sexual misconduct cases involving executives like Android creator Andy Rubin.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

Read more about the Google Walkout here on Business Insider.


In November 2018, Pichai was asked to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee, where he addressed accusations from conservative lawmakers that Google’s search results are biased. Pichai denied such claims, saying: “I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way.”

Getty

Only time will tell if Google — which powers 90% of internet searches in the US — will continue to dominate the way we find our information online.


In December 2019, Brin and Page announced they would be stepping down from their positions at Google’s parent company. They are staying members of Alphabet’s Board of Directors, and still control the company thanks to their super-voting shares. Pichai will take over to be CEO of both Google and Alphabet.

REUTERS/Kimberly WhiteLarry Page, left, and Sergey Brin.

Source: Business Insider

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