Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are definitely fans of wordplay, and they seem to have a thing for company names that are both goofy and yet significant at the same time.
A perfect example of this is when Google rolled out its new operating structure, Alphabet, earlier this summer. Page explained the name in an exclamation-laden blog post:
“We liked the name Alphabet because it means a collection of letters that represent language, one of humanity’s most important innovations, and is the core of how we index with Google search! We also like that it means alpha‑bet (Alpha is investment return above benchmark), which we strive for!”
But this certainly wasn’t the first time the duo had experimented with language. Back in 1996, before Google even existed as an entity, Page and Brin were already making up nerdy names for search engines.
They called it this because the program analyzed the web’s “back links” to understand how important a website was, and what other sites it related to. BackRub operated on Stanford’s servers until it eventually took up too much bandwidth.
But by 1997, Page seems to have decided that the BackRub name just wasn’t good enough. According to Koller, Page and his officemates at Stanford began to workshop different names for the search engine technology, names that would evoke just how much data they were indexing.
The name “Google” actually came from a graduate student at Stanford named Sean Anderson, Koller writes. Anderson suggested the word “googolplex” during a brainstorming session, and Page countered with the shorter “googol.” Googol is the digit 1 followed by 100 zeroes, while googolplex is 1 followed by a googol zeros.
Anderson checked to see if that domain name was taken, but accidentally searched for “google.com” instead of “googol.com.” Page liked that name even better, and registered the domain name for Brin and himself on September 15, 1997.
From BackRub to Google to Alphabet – makes you wonder what’s next.