The True Meaning of “Google” (And Its Awful Original Name)

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Fun Fact: Google’s name wasn’t always Google. Imagine asking someone to “Backrub” your latest curiosity. Sounds awkward, right?

That’s because when Larry Page and Sergey Brin started their project in 1996, they called it “Backrub.” The name came from the search engine’s focus on “backlinks,” or how websites link to each other.

Thankfully, a year later, they realized that name just wouldn’t do, sparing us all from a world where “Backrub it” was a thing. Enter: Google.

So, what does “Google” actually mean?

If you’ve ever Googled “Google,” you might have stumbled upon the claim that it stands for “Global Organization of Oriented Group Language of Earth.”

Sounds official, but it’s completely wrong.

Here’s the real story

As Stanford computer scientist David Koller recounts, Larry Page and Sean Anderson were brainstorming in their office, trying to come up with a name that conveyed the vastness of their data indexing.

Sean suggested “googolplex” (a ridiculously large number), and Larry shortened it to “googol.”

Sean then searched for the domain name but misspelled it as “google.com.” It was available, Larry liked it, and the rest is history. On September 15, 1997, “google.com” was officially registered.

What’s a Googol?

A googol is 1 followed by 100 zeroes (1 × 10¹⁰⁰). Google chose this name because it reflects their mission to organize an almost infinite amount of information on the web.

So next time you “Google” something, you can thank a simple spelling mistake for the name we all know and love today.

And be grateful you’re not asking people to “Backrub” their queries.


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