It’s a little more than incredible to picture the trajectory of Google’s growth. It was a company that created a unique search engine that now manages over a billion users.
Almost everybody who uses the internet uses Google in some way shape or form to navigate the endlessly vast internet.
On September 4th 2018, Google celebrated its 20th anniversary, cementing its status as one of the most influential corporations in history.
As Alphabet, Google’s holding company, steadily climbs to join the likes of Apple and Amazon in the $1 trillion-dollar valuation club, let us reflect on the milestones and defining moments that pushed Google to its current status.
AUGUST 1996: LARRY PAGE AND SERGEY BRIN LAUNCH BACKRUB ON STANFORD’S NETWORK
Google first begun in 1996 when BackRub was developed as a research project by Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
Page designed a system that would crawl the internet to determine which pages were linking to other pages His hypothesis was that it could lead to the creation of a new kind of search engine.
Together with Brin’s math expertise, the duo created the PageRank algorithm to rank the search results based on linking behavior.
These two technologies were the basis for the most powerful search engine in the world, which launched on Stanford’s private network in August 1996.
SEPTEMBER 4TH, 1998: ANGEL FUNDING AND INCORPORATION
The vast number of links between pages and how their search engine would only become more accurate and useful as the web continued to grow inspired Page and Brin.
They renamed their company after the mathematical term googol (a one followed by 100 zeroes).
The duo relocated to the garage of Susan Wojcicki, who would later become CEO of YouTube in Menlo Park, California. Then, they incorporated the company as Google, with a $100,000 investment Andy Bechtolsheim (from Sun Microsystems co-founder).
AUGUST 2001: ERIC SCHMIDT MADE CHAIRMAN
Google was only a few years old, but it was growing quickly. In search of guidance, Page and Brin recruited Schmidt, former CTO of Sun and former CEO of Nortel.
He held the position for 10 years and oversaw landmarks like the YouTube acquisition and the introduction of Gmail and Google Docs.
JULY 2003: THE GOOGLEPLEX
To accommodate the rapid growth of their workforce, Google leased a complex of buildings at 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway.
It was then known as the Amphitheatre Technology Center and owned by Silicon Graphics in Mountain View, California.
It is now known as the Googleplex, and it’s the company’s largest campus following multiple expansions and additional building acquisitions.
APRIL 1ST, 2004: GMAIL LAUNCHES
Google employee Paul Buchheit started work on a product to address the company’s increasing internal communications and storage needs.
On April 1st, 2004, Gmail was launched to the public with 1GB of storage and advanced search capabilities, ridiculously outclassing the other email products of the time, many of which offered just a few megabytes of storage.
The release date led many in the media to speculate it was an April Fools’ prank.
It was not.
AUGUST 19TH, 2004: GOOGLE GOES PUBLIC
After a series of angel investments, Google acquired a more formal $25 million funding round in 1999 from traditional Silicon Valley venture capital firms like Kleiner Perkins and Sequoia Capital.
The company’s web advertising products made it hugely profitable, leading to an eventual initial public offering five years later.
Google priced its stock at $85 a share, giving it a $27 billion valuation after raising close to $1.7 billion.
Today, the company is now well on its way to becoming a trillion-dollar company.
2005-2008: MAPS, YOUTUBE, CHROME, AND ANDROID
Google Maps was launched on February 8th 2005 but it wouldn’t be until 2009, when Google would roll out turn-by-turn GPS navigation for Maps on smartphones, that things got really useful.
Google then outbid Microsoft, Viacom, and Yahoo to acquire YouTube for $1.65 billion on October 9th 2006.
The deal was mutually beneficial for both parties: Google won the war for online video traffic, and YouTube (barely a year old at the time) gained access to Google’s hefty resources.
Google hired several Mozilla Firefox developers, and together, they made Chrome for Windows, which later came to other operating systems.
Ten years later, Chrome is now the world’s dominant web browser, with around a 60 percent worldwide usage share, and it’s the largest driving force keeping Google Search more relevant today than it’s ever been.
After quietly buying Android for $50 million in 2005, what would become the most popular mobile OS in the world made its debut with the announcement of the T-Mobile G1 / HTC Dream, the first Android phone.
Launched on October 22nd for $179 (with a two-year contract), they would go on to set the groundwork for the future with features that are still the pillars of the OS today: open software, deep integration with Google services, and best-in-class notification features.
JULY 24TH, 2013: GOOGLE CHROMECAST ANNOUNCED
The Chromecast started as a tiny, cheap, no-frills way of streaming video from a phone or computer to a TV.
Five years later… literally none of that has changed, and Google has barely updated the product.
It’s still one of the cheapest and simplest ways to stream.
AUGUST 10TH, 2015: GOOGLE RESTRUCTURES AS ALPHABET INC.
Google co-founder Larry Page decided to reorganize the giant conglomerate that Google became, thanks to its moonshots into a new company called Alphabet.
The reorganization of Google — which, at this point, included the life-extending project Calico and the company’s investment arms — into distinct companies with their own CEOs and putting Sundar Pichai in charge of Google has worked extremely well for the company.
Since the shift, new companies like Verily, Waymo, and Wing have launched under Alphabet with dedicated organizations that are solely focused on their success, something that likely wouldn’t have been possible under the single, very crowded, umbrella the Google had become.
MAY 18TH, 2016: GOOGLE ASSISTANT LAUNCHES
Google may have been the last to launch a virtual assistant, reaching the market two years after Amazon’s Alexa and nearly five years after Apple’s Siri, but it has nearly caught up with both of them.
Google Assistant has rapidly grown to compete directly against Alexa for consumer-facing AI dominance, it powers Google’s Home speaker, and it became available on a number of speakers, TVs, and smart displays in less than two years on the market.
OCTOBER 2016: GOOGLE SOLIDIFIES HARDWARE LAUNCH WITH PIXEL, GOOGLE HOME
Following its years of dabbling in consumer hardware with its Nexus program and other one-off devices, Google jumped into the deep end with the launch of the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones and Google Home smart speaker.
The Pixel was the first proper Android smartphone designed entirely by Google.
Although it was still manufactured by a Google partner (in this case, HTC), it marked a bold shift for Google toward a cohesive, Apple-style product ecosystem.
The Home speaker has since joined the Chromecast as part of Google’s media and artificial intelligence platform for the home, while the Pixel line has arguably become the gold standard for flagship Android handsets.
Google is already applying its expertise to its line of smart speakers and personal assistants, offering its well-regarded search results through voice recognition and spoken responses.
Someday, typing text onto a screen may seem as quaint as rotary phones.
No one can honestly predict Google’s future, but we are all just tingling with anticipation to see.