How could a research project by two Ph.D. students from Stanford University become a technology giant worth an estimated $500 billion over the course of twenty years? Well, those two students are Larry Page and Sergey Brin, it is no wonder Google has become one of the largest companies in the world.
In 1996, Page was looking for a theme for his dissertation. Distraught, he turned to his supervisor Terry Winograd who encouraged him to explore the mathematical properties of the then finite “World Wide Web.” Page was interested in finding out which web pages link to a given page, and the relationship between the number and nature of backlinks to those pages. He saw this information as extremely valuable. Brin soon joined the project, which was nicknamed “BackRub,” and their primitive web crawler began exploring in March of 1996.
Page and Brin soon realized that a search engine based on their PageRank algorithm would produce better results than any existing search functionality. PageRank works by producing a list of backlinks ranked by importance for a given URL. Although the domain for their search engine was originally google.stanford.edu, the domain google.com was registered on September 15, 1997 and Google was incorporated on September 4, 1998. By the end of 1998, Google had an index of over 60 million pages – today, Google indexes an estimated 30 trillion pages. Google’s initial public offering, or IPO, materialized in August of 2004. Over 19 million shares were offered at $85/share. Google received a market capitalization of more than $23 billion, and many of Google’s employees became instant millionaires.
With Google’s status as a search engine giant solidified, the company began tinkering with numerous ideas. In 2010, Google Energy made an investment in a renewable energy project by putting $38.8 million into two windfarms in North Dakota. In 2011, Google purchased Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion in order to expand their patent portfolio. Also in 2011, Google announced their own laptop, which would be called the “Chromebook” and run on Chrome OS. Google also launched their own smartphone, the Pixel, which boasts a 12.3 MP camera and an easy-to-use personal assistant.
But did Larry Page and Sergey Brin know Google would become such a success? In an interview with The New York Times, Page’s advisor Terry Winograd spoke about Page’s fascination with technology. “Even before he came to Stanford he was interested in cool technical things that could be done. What makes something interesting for him is a big technical challenge. It’s not so much where it’s headed but what the ride is like,” Winograd said. Despite whether or not Page and Brin had foresight about Google’s future success, one thing is for sure – their company will have internet users searching for years to come.