Google: A look back at 12-years of milestones

Faith Merino · September 30, 2010 · Short URL:

From an idea in '95 to a $27 billion IPO, to a tech juggernaut worth $147 billion in 2010

Google is growing up and entering its awkward “tween” years. Monday marked the company’s 12th birthday, the time in a company’s life when it starts to really take notice of the opposite sex, go to dances, and tape Zac Efron or Megan Fox posters to its bedroom walls. 

But joking aside, the company continues to face choppy waters as it dukes it out with rivals like Facebook and Apple, both of which have, at times, gained the upper hand over Google.  Nonetheless, Google has consistently shown that it has the adaptability and stamina to stay in the game.  Google’s head of global communications and public affairs, Jordan Newman, commented via email: “As we celebrate our 12th birthday, we're pleased with where we are and we know the best is yet to come. Over the years, we've found that if we focus on the user all else will follow and the same philosophy holds true today.”

To celebrate the company’s tween birthday, let’s look at some old baby pictures and reminisce on some of Google’s milestones. 


Larry Page, a University of Michigan graduate, is considering grad school at Stanford, and Sergey Brin is assigned to show him around.  The two hit it off and magic is made!  The following spring semester, they begin collaborating on a new search engine called BackRub.  The search engine, which uses a PageRank algorithm to measure page relevance to a given search, operates on the Stanford University server for a year, using the domain name, before it exceeds bandwidth.


Page and Brin rename the project “Google,” a playful misspelling of the word “Googol,” which refers to the number consisting of a 1 and 100 zeros, representing the project’s aim to organize a bottomless pool of information on the Web.  The domain name is officially launched in September 1997.


August: Sun co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim becomes Google’s first investor, investing $100,000 to “Google Inc.,” which did not yet exist.

September: Page and Brin formally incorporate Google in a friend’s garage in Menlo Park.  Fellow Computer Science grad student, Craig Silverstein, becomes Google’s first employee.

December: Three months after incorporating, PC Magazine names Google the “search engine of choice” in its review of top 100 Websites for 1998, noting that the search engine has an “uncanny knack for returning extremely relevant results.”


February: The eight-person company moves to a new office at 164 University Avenue in Palo Alto, California.  The first snack ordered for the office, other than drinks, is Swedish fish…for some reason.

June: The company raises $25 million from Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins.

July: The company moves to its Mountain View location.

December: The year-end look at search trends reveals the most frequent search terms of 1999, which include:

  1. Pokemon
  2. Apollo
  3. Slashdot
  4. Y2K
  5. Trenchcoat Mafia
  6. Hurricane Floyd
  7. Kosovo
  8. DeCSS
  9. MIT University
  10. Star Wars


May: Google is translated into 10 languages, including French, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Finnish, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, and Danish. 

June: Google partners with Yahoo! to become its default search provider.  Also in June, Google announces the first billion URL-index, making Google the largest search engine worldwide.

October: Google AdWords launches with 350 customers, allowing for keyword targeting and performance feedback.  The ads are text-based only to maximize page-loading time and keep pages uncluttered.  Keywords are sold based on a combination of click-throughs and price bids, with bidding starting at $0.05 per click. 


March: Eric Schmidt is named Chairman of the Board of Directors.

August: The company opens its first international office in Tokyo.  Also in August, Schmidt is named CEO and Larry Page and Sergey Brin become presidents of product and technology.

December: The company reaches an index of three billion Web documents.


May: Google partners with AOL to bring Google search and sponsored links to the 34 million Web users on CompuServe, Netscape, and

September: Google launches Google News with 4,000 news sources.


February: Google acquires Pyra Labs, the creators of Blogger, which allow the company to use information scoured from blogs to improve Google News.  Also in February, Yahoo! discontinues its partnership with Google, which is managing 84.7% of all Web searches through its partnerships with Yahoo!, AOL, and Netscape. 

March: Google announces the launch of AdSense, a new content-targeted advertising service that extends advertiser reach and replaces untargeted ads with relevant sponsored links.  The technology gauges user response in the form of click-through rates to determine the order in which ads are shown. Users see the most relevant advertising first and advertisers see average click-through rates at least five times higher than the industry average for traditional banner ads. 

September: The company is estimated to be worth between $17 billion and $19 billion.


January: Google launches Orkut as its first foray into the social networking arena.  The network is named after Google employee Orkut Büyükkökten, who created the site during his 20% personal time, which the company mandates all employees take to work on side projects of their own.  The network today has 100 million active members worldwide, most of whom come from Brazil and India.

February: Google’s index reaches six billion Web items, including 4.28 billion web pages and 880 million images.

April: Google introduces Gmail as an invitation-only beta release.  Also in April, Google files for an IPO, with Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse First Boston acting as underwriters for the deal. 

August: Google’s IPO, one of the most talked about and debated IPOs of the day, takes place on Wall Street with 19,605,052 shares starting at a price of $85 per share, hoping to raise $1.67 billion.  The sale puts the company’s valuation at $27 billion, which is lower than expected.  Nevertheless, over 1,000 Google employees become millionaires and founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin become billionaires.

September: Google reaches 100 Google domains worldwide.

November: Google reaches an index of eight billion Web pages.


March: Google acquires Urchin, a Web analytics company whose technology is used to create Google Analytics.

April: Google introduces Site Targeting for AdWords, which allows advertisers to target their ads to specific content sites throughout the Google network.

August: One year after its IPO, Google announces plans to sell 14,159,265 more shares of its stock, which doubles Google’s cash stockpile to $7 billion.

December: A Pew Research study reveals that for the first time, search has tied with email as the number one activity among Internet users.


January: The company acquires dMarc Broadcasting, a digital solutions provider for radio broadcasting that allows advertisers to connect directly to radio stations using an automated advertising platform.  The technology is integrated with AdWords to provide a radio ad distribution channel for Google advertisers.

January: Google complies with China, raising concerns that Google capitulated to the Chinese government.

January: Google launches a video store, without video, in an effort to become the video kingpin. It will take about 10 months before Google buys the video kingpin - YouTube.

March: Google acquires Writely, a Web-based word processing application that is used to create Google Docs.

June: The word “google” is officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary as a verb. 

October: Google acquires YouTube for $1.65 billion in a stock-for-stock transaction.


February: Google makes Gmail (previously invitation-only) accessible to all.  Also in February, then-senator Hilary Clinton is the first of several presidential candidates to visit the Googleplex in the Candidates@Google speaker series. 

June: The Google Maps app gets prime placement on the first Apple iPhone.  Also in June, YouTube becomes available in nine more domains around the world, including Brazil, the United Kingdom, Japan, Italy, The Netherlands, Ireland, Spain, Poland, and France. 

October: Google shares go beyond the $600 mark for the first time.

November: Google announces Android, the first open platform for mobile devices.

December: The Queen of England launches the Royal Channel on YouTube, becoming the first monarch to create her own channel.


April: According to comScore, Google surpasses Yahoo for the first time in the number of unique monthly visitors.  ComScore’s data says that Google sites had 141.1 million unique visitors while Yahoo had 140.6 million.  Nielsen Online, however, claims that its data showed that Google passed Yahoo up in January of 2007.  Yahoo still leads with the amount of time users spent on its sites, however, with 3 hours and 9 minutes per month compared to Google’s 1 hour and 47 minutes.

July: Google now indexes one trillion unique URLs.

August: YouTube surpasses Yahoo to become the number two search engine, seeing more search traffic than Yahoo, with Google at the number one spot, which effectively means that Google, Inc. holds the top two spots for most used search engines. 


January: The Vatican launches a YouTube channel.

February: Google surpasses Coca Cola to become the second most valuable brand in the world, according to analysts at Brand Finance.  The company beats out Microsoft and IBM, but comes in second to Wal-Mart.

March: The White House holds an online Town Hall to take questions submitted on Google Moderator.

April: Over 90 musicians from around the world perform in the first-ever YouTube Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.

August: The company is valued at $140 billion five years after its IPO, when it was valued at $27 billion. Also in August, data from comScore reveals that 161 million U.S. Internet users watched online video during the month of August, the largest audience ever recorded.  More than 25 billion videos were viewed, with 10 billion coming from Google Sites.


March: Google stops censoring results in China.

May: Google’s Android operating system beats out Apple’s iPhone operating system for the number two spot in the U.S. smartphone market, both coming in behind RIM's BlackBerry OS.

June: In an effor to work the the Chinese authorities, Google ends automatic redirection to Hong Kong site for Chinese mainland Internet users.

September: Google leads all other major technology companies by acquiring 23 companies in 2010, compared to IBM’s 12, Facebook’s 6, and Microsoft’s 0.

Conclusion: Obviously, this list is only a smattering of Google’s accomplishments since its inception.  For all the cutesy “baby Google” talk, it’s less of a bumbling Baby Huey and more of a turbo-charged super cyborg baby that ruthlessly annihilates the competition.  

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