Eleven Years of Google: A Look Back

Google has come a long way in its eleven-year history, from its humble beginning as a Stanford University research project in 1998, to the global, multi-billion dollar online presence Google enjoys today.

Earlier this week, the company celebrated its 11th birthday and choose to mark the occasion with an all new Google Doodle, a fun take on their colorful identity. The unique logo illustrated Google's eleven years in operation by adding an extra L to the company's name to form a number eleven.

Google's actual founding date is subject to debate. There are those who think that Google should bring out the cake on the September 4, the day in 1998 that Google filed its incorporation papers and officially became Google, Inc. Still others think that Google should recognize September 15, 1997 as its founding date, as that is when Google registered the google.com domain. But despite the debate, Google has celebrated its anniversary on September 27 for the past few years now, making the date somewhat official.

Google is eleven.

Any birthday offers the perfect opportunity to reflect on the past, so just what has Google been up to in the last eleven years?

Early Days: 1998

With 1997 behind them, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin dropped the original BackRub moniker in favor of Google, a play on the mathematical term "googol". With the Google.com domain registered and a healthy $100,000 investment from Sun co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim, the two Stanford students rented out a $1,700 a month garage space in California's Menlo Park.

With a makeshift office in place, Google made it official and filed for incorporation as "Google Technology Inc" on September 4, 1998. As the rest of year played out, Google began to receive positive support in the press, and the company also hired their first employee, Craig Silverstein.

Money And Moving: 1999

Thanks to its growing workforce, the fledgling company moved twice in 1999. Google outgrew its modest garage and relocated briefly to a more suitable location in Palo Alto. In June, the company released its very first press release, detailing how the firm had secured $25 million of funding.

During the second half of the year, as the company reached forty employees, Google moved once again to offices in Mountain View, with an in-house chef included. T

his year also saw Google drop the exclamation mark from their logo and settling with its now world-famous branding.

Growth & Expansion: 2000

2000 was a year of growth, as along with the search engine reaching a milestone of one billion pages indexed, the website also expanded to support over fifteen languages including Chinese, French, German, Japanese and more.

How things change. This year (2000) also saw Yahoo! reveal that they will be using Google as their default search provider. At the time this was a big deal, as Yahoo! was once one of the darlings of search, which Google had originally set their eyes on to compete with; mission accomplished? Of course today paints a very different picture as now both Yahoo! and Microsoft are collectively attempting to compete with the search giant that Google has become.

Before the year was out Google also found time to launch the immensely successful AdWords program, and their Toolbar browser plug-in. With the year drawing to a close it was pretty clear that the search engine was on a meteoric rise, as Google was now handling nearly 100 million search queries a day.

Going Global: 2001

With the search engine now available in over twenty-five languages, it only seemed right that the company would expand on a global level with the opening of its first international office in Tokyo.

2001 also saw Google hire ex-Novell chief executive Eric Schmidt, who started at Google as the Chairman of the Board, before quickly moving on to become the CEO.

With the Google search index approaching three billion webpages, it seemed the perfect time to tackle a new type of search: Images. Google launched its Image Search service in July, and initially had an index of over 250 million images.

Getting Geeky: 2002

2002 saw Google launch a range of new products, including the shopping tool Froogle, the experimental Google Labs, and the popular Google News service, a product of the company's so-called "twenty percent time". Geeky Google also decided to offer a Klingon translation of the site for all those Star Trek fans out there, bringing the total number of supports languages to over seventy. Spiderman, Warcraft 3 and pop star Shakira were amongst the most common search terms of the year.

The Written Word: 2003

2003 was one verbose year for the search-engine giant. It began in February when Google acquired Pyra Labs, creators of the Blogger service, which allowed the masses to publish their thoughts online with ease. Soon after the acquisition, Google's company name was announced as a recognized verb, to "google it" had become synonymous with search, however Google strived to steer clear of dictonaries and protect their strong brand.

In December the controversial Google Print was launched: Now known as Google Book Search, the service allows users to view excerpts from thousands of books in digital form. Classic books and their film adaptations, such as Lord Of The Rings and Harry Potter, were some of the most searched for terms on Google in 2003.

Email, Google Style: 2004

Without a doubt 2004 biggest Google news was the introduction of Gmail.

The beta launched on April Fools Day, but Google made sure that Gmails was no joke, offering a then-unheard-of 1GB of storage along with a speedy user experience and the beauty of Google's search technology built right in to your inbox. The service launched as a strictly invite-only affair, which resulted in an online gold rush of those hoping to land an invitation. After five years, Gmail finally disposed of its beta status early in June of 2009.

2004 also saw Google move to its Mountain View, California "Googleplex" headquarters, where the company still resides today. In addition, Google opened a research and development center in Tokyo and a European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland. With over three thousand employees, a range or products under its belt and over eight billion items in its search index Google's growth continued to amaze.

Mapping The World: 2005

In 2005, Google's ongoing effort to organize the world's information continued as

they released Google Maps. Since then, Google has continually improved the mapping service, adding new features such as satellite views and directions, as well as increasing the number of new searchable locations. Google Earth, a 3D satellite photography-based mapping application, soon followed, further complimenting Google's range of location services.

2005 also saw the release of the iGoogle customizable home page, Google Reader RSS feed manager and Google Analytics. Optimized mobile versions of Gmail, Blogger, and Search were also released.

Oh, and could you imagine naming your newborn baby "Google"? It happened.

A Message From Chad & Steve: 2006

Ending months of speculation, in late 2006 Google finally revealed that they had bought online video site YouTube in a massive $1.65 billion stock transaction.

The Growth Continues: 2007

The year started with Google expanding into new territories once again, with Google Maps making its way to Australia and the Google Docs suite of tools being made available in several additional languages. Gmail was also made available to all, no longer requiring an invitation.

T

he biggest innovation from Google in 2007 was the addition of street level photography to Google Maps. Dubbed Street View, the service lets you view and explore a number of US locations at street level. Naturally, Street View's introduction caused some controversy as it raised quite a few privacy concerns.

Popular search terms in 2007 included the iPhone, Facebook and Second Life. Since Google acquired YouTube in 2006, the popular video site has grown into an outright juggernaut: Even the Queen of England has her own YouTube channel.

Going Full Circle: 2008

Last year Google celebrated their tenth year in operation, and showed no signs of slowing down. The company released its first iPhone application, expanded Street View's coverage to include a number of additional countries, revealed a new version of its Picasa photo management app, and launched Knol, a Wikipedia-type service.

In its biggest move of the year, Google announced that it would enter the browser wars with its own take on the humble web browser. The open source Google Chrome appeared in September of last year, and featured a minimalist interface and home page with shortcuts to frequently visited pages--features that have made their way into other browsers since then.

Later in the year, Google's foray into software continued as the first ever cell phone to use Android, Google's open-source mobile OS, hit the scene.

Google At Present: 2009

2009 has been a busy year so far for Google, and it isn't over yet. So far Google has added offline access to Gmail, introduced its Latitude location service, taken you to Mars with a new version of Google Earth, and re-launched the GrandCentral phone service as Google Voice, to name but a few things.

Google also unveiled its Wave service in May of this year. Wave combines a range of communication and social networking activities into a single web application and is expected to be available to the masses later this year.

The biggest news from Google this year came when the firm announced that it plans to release an operating system. Google Chrome OS is expected to land next year, and will initially be aimed at low end devices such as netbooks. Several hints at what the OS could look like have leaked online, but Google have yet to comment on any supposed screenshots.

A rumoured screenshot of Google's Chrome operating system.

What Does The Future Hold?

With eleven years behind them, Google is still innovating and tweaking. What we can expect next from the search giant is anyone's guess, but in the immediate future we can look forward to taking Chrome OS for a spin, trying out new versions of Android, and watching countless videos on YouTube.

Just be sure to remember this, Google: Don't be evil. Please.

What will Google come up with next? Chime in with your thoughts in the comments.

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