Google turns 21: What the search giant’s homepage looked like when it first began

The site looked wildly different when it was launched in September 1998

Andrew Griffin
Thursday 26 September 2019 22:57
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Google birthday: Search Engine marks 21st anniversary with special doodle

It is Google’s 21st birthday, and it is looking very grown up.

The home page of Google and the search results that show when you use it are nowadays a frenzy of rich content: showing not just web pages but doodles, sports results, and images.

But back in 1998, when the site was born, it looked wildly different.

There are recognisable parts of the old version of the site: it’s similar colourful design, and that all-important search box.

But much else is very different. For one, the site was at that time referred to as “Google!”, with the shouting exclamation mark that introduced it to the world.

If you would prefer to actually use the old version of Google yourself, it is saved inside of the internet archive. Clicking this link will take you to that cached version – and you can even fast forward to how it looked later on, too.

Over time, the search page actually becomes more simple, dropping the “special searches” and newsletter sign up in favour of the very simple page that appears to users today. But, of course, that appearance only hides the vast complexity that underpins today’s Google, including the autocomplete option that cleverly guesses what you might be searching, and the live search results that show you information even before you stop typing.

Google’s official story began in 1995, at Stanford University, where founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin first met. Page, then considering Stanford for graduate study, was being shown around by student Sergey Bring – and there the pairing began.

Initially, the pair were said to have fallen out about just about everything. Eventually, however, they came to realise they could work together, and they did: to create a website called Backrub.

That website soon had its name changed, to Google. That name was chosen because of the number 1 followed by 100 zeroes, an attempt to reflect the fact the pair were trying to organise the vast amount of information in the world.

From there, Google continued to grow. It received its first investment, for $100,000, in August 1998 – marking one of its many birthdays. The technology grew, too, from the first server made of lego to the vast farms that power the company today.

So, too, grew the website itself, from the clunky vision of the early web that it appeared as in 1998 to today’s deceivingly simple homepage.

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