Google’s incredible growth: A timeline
Google comes to life – January
Google comes to life
Stanford University students Larry Page and Sergey Brin start a project to better organize internet search results. The duo made an algorithm that ranks pages based on the number of other pages that link back to it. They initially called their project “Backrub” but quickly change the name to Google, as a play on a mathematical symbol.
Funding arrives – August
The co-founder of Sun Microsystems, Andy Bechtolsheim, a Stanford alum, takes notice of Brin and Page’s idea and writes the pair a check for $100,000. It marks Google’s first investment. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is also an early investor.
Google moves off campus – September
Google moves off campus
Armed with capital, Page and Brin move Google out of Stanford and into its first office, the garage of their friend Susan Wojcicki in Menlo Park, California. Wojcicki will go on to become the CEO of YouTube, which Google owns. The company buys the domain Google.com and officially incorporates.
Hey, Pal--o Alto – March
Hey, Pal--o Alto
The growing company now has eight employees and is too big for the Menlo Park garage. It moves into a real office in Palo Alto, California.
More investments arrive – June
More investments arrive
The company touts a major investment in its first ever press release. The venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Sequoia Capital invest $25 million.
Moving on up – August
Moving on up
Google outgrows its Palo Alto office and moves to Mountain View, California. The new campus is just a few miles from Stanford University.
Google revolutionizes advertising – October
Google revolutionizes advertising
Google begins selling advertising through a program called Google AdWords. It offers marketers the opportunity to purchase relevant keywords that appear next to search results. The revenue from these ad sales will help propel Google to one of the richest companies in the world.
Leadership takes shape – August
Leadership takes shape
Eric Schmidt, who joined as chairman in March, is named Google CEO. Sergey Brin and Larry Page are named company presidents. Schmidt brings leadership experience, having served as CEO of Novell, a software company, and as a vice president at Sun Microsystems.
Google sets sights on your inbox – April
Google sets sights on your inbox
The search company launches its webmail service, Gmail, by invitation only. The ad supported service becomes massively popular because it offers a large amount of free storage to its users. Google’s email will eventually integrate a bevy of products, including a productivity suite called Google Docs that challenges Microsoft Office for word processing dominance.
Google goes public – August
Google goes public
In one of the most hotly anticipated tech IPOs ever, Google debuts on the Nasdaq at $85 a share. Though the price is much lower than anticipated, it values the company at a staggering $23 billion. The company’s controversial phrase “Don’t be evil” was included in its IPO filings. Brin, Page and Schmidt cut their annual salaries to $1.
Beyond the internet superhighway – April
Beyond the internet superhighway
Google launches tools aimed at helping users navigate the real world. It starts with Google Maps, which features satellite imagery and driving directions, and follows shortly after with Google Earth, a 3-D mapping technology that offers users a way to see far flung locations on their computer monitor.
Into the Android void – July
Into the Android void
Google shells out a relatively small amount of money, roughly $50 million, to buy a struggling mobile phone software company called Android. The acquisition would turn out to be quite valuable for Google as touch screen mobile phones began to explode in popularity.
It’s time for a chat – August
It’s time for a chat
The company debuts Google Talk, a voice and text chat program. The service, which is sometimes called Gchat, would integrate into its webmail service, Gmail, shortly after the debut.
The Great Firewall – January
The Great Firewall
Google launches in China with a censored version of its search engine that adheres to Chinese government rules. The decision draws criticism from the highest levels: Sergey Brin is grilled by Congress. Four years later, Google would close up shop in China.
Google pivots to video – October
Google pivots to video
The search giant makes a big bet on entertainment when it snaps up a popular internet video company called YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock. The platform spurred a user generated content boom and helped usher in a new era of video and music stars, including acts like Justin Bieber and Rebecca Black.
Google’s ad business grows – April
Google’s ad business grows
Google buys online advertising company DoubleClick for $3.1 billion. The move allows the company to quickly scale its operation beyond targeted search results. The company begins working directly with web publishers to serve display advertisements across the internet, rather than its search page.
Street View – May
To enhance its map and navigation tools, Google straps a hulking camera to the top of a fleet of cars and sends them out film the streets. It’s called Google Street View and it’s a handy way to get a look at storefronts and streetscapes. But it also sparks privacy concerns.
Google flexes – September
The company releases Chrome, a lightweight, speedy and minimalist web browser that challenges Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Apple’s Safari. It quickly explodes in popularity. That same month Google’s Android operating system debuts on the HTC Dream phone, which was known as the G1 in the United States. The release positions Google to compete with Microsoft, Apple and Blackberry in the white hot market for mobile phones.
Nexus of the universe – January
Nexus of the universe
Google releases its first mobile phones sold directly to customers. The Nexus One was considered sleek and revolutionary at the time because of its small size and powerful camera. Android aficionados fawned over its redesigned home screen. The phone was partnership among Google, HTC and T-Mobile.
More fiber – February
Google’s entry into distributing the internet begins with the launch of Fiber in Kansas City. The technology can produce crazy fast internet speeds.
Schmidt gives up CEO – January
Schmidt gives up CEO
Day-to-day adult supervision no longer needed! http://goo.gl/zC89p— Eric Schmidt (@ericschmidt) January 20, 2011
In a surprise move, Eric Schmidt steps down as CEO to become executive chairman. Co-founder Larry Page replaces him four months later. Schmidt downplayed the importance of shuffle on his Twitter account: "Day-to-day adult supervision no longer needed!" he wrote.
Mobile nirvana – March
The company’s Android operating system becomes the most-used mobile OS in the United States -- a stunning race to the top from a platform that didn't exist just 27 months prior. The astonishing rise in popularity can be credited to letting handset manufacturers customize it as much as they like.
Social reach – June
Google buys traffic app Waze for a reported $1.3 billion. The crowd-sourced traffic app is a crowd pleaser. Google+ launches as the replacement for its former social network Google Buzz.
Appy days – March
Google completes its $12.5 billion purchase for Motorola Mobility. The purchase is considered a watershed moment for the company, marking both its biggest acquisition and Google's transition from a search-and-software company to a consumer gadgets maker.
Face computers fizzle – April
Face computers fizzle
Google takes the curtains off “Project Glass:” a headset with see-through lens could display everything from text messages to maps to reminders. “Google Glass” was released to a test group to help gather feedback for a public release that was eventually scrapped. The device was met with bewilderment and mockery.
Google on the TV – June
Google on the TV
Chromecast, a $35 device for streaming content to your television, is released. While it wasn’t a revolutionary device, it competed well against Amazon Fire and Apple TV because of its low cost. It’s part of a trend toward smart home gadgets from Google.
Google sells Mobility, buys Nest – January
Google sells Mobility, buys Nest
Google sells the Motorola Mobility unit it bought in 2012 to Lenovo for $2.9 billion, almost $10 billion less than what they paid. Google walked away with a lot of patents. The company also shells out $3.2 billion in cash for connected device maker Nest Lab, to start a push into the home with internet-connected video cameras, thermostats and smoke detectors.
New parent, same company – August
New parent, same company
Google folds itself into a new company called Alphabet with Page as its CEO. The new parent company includes the businesses like Nest, Google X, Fiber and Google Ventures under its umbrella. Sundar Pichai is named Google CEO and remains in the position today.
Google’s new look – September
Google’s new look
Google gives itself a makeover with a new streamlined logo. The color scheme remains, but creates a new font that’s easier to read on smaller screens, like mobile devices and wearables.
Okay, Google Home – May
Okay, Google Home
Google enters the home assistant wars with its AI powered Google Home device. The speaker rivals the Amazon Alexa (and later the Apple HomePod) for voice control of your smart home devices and spoken queries.
Pixel comes into focus – October
Pixel comes into focus
Google launches a flagship phone called the Pixel, billed as "first phone made by Google inside and out." The phone tries to one up Apple’s iPhone with a better camera and free, unlimited photo storage.
Leggo my Waymo – December
Leggo my Waymo
Google X spins off of its self-driving tech company to form Waymo, a current leader in self driving vehicles. The move positions it for a bitter rivalry with Uber that ends in a court approved settlement. Uber paid $245 million after being accused of stealing trade secrets.
Big fine from Europe – June
Big fine from Europe
European Union slaps Google with a record $2.7 billion antitrust fine, a whopping penalty for favoring its own shopping service in search results. It’s the first of two antitrust cases the EU wages against Google. The other case says its Android operating system muscles out the competition. Google denies both accusations.
Google buys HTC – September
Google buys HTC
After years of working closely with the hardware manufacturer, Google finally buys HTC. It pays $1.1 billion to get its hands on smartphone expertise from the struggling Taiwanese manufacturer of its Nexus phones. The move signals that Google is serious about developing cell phone hardware.
Alphabet scoop – February
Alphabet, the parent company of Google, reports that it topped $100 billion in annual sales for the first time in Google's 20-year history. The milestone is a testament to the strength of Google's ad sales business.
More troubles in Europe – July
More troubles in Europe
The EU punishes Google with another record fine. This time it’s hit with $5 billion for unfairly pushing its Android apps on smartphone users and thwarting competitors. The company refuted the claim, saying in a statement that Android “has created more choice for everyone, not less.”
Expanding beyond Silicon Valley – December
Expanding beyond Silicon Valley
Google announces it will add 1.7 million square feet of office space in New York for more than 7,000 additional employees. The company says it is growing faster outside the San Francisco Bay area than in it, opening offices and data centers in Detroit, Los Angeles, Boulder, Colorado, Tennessee and Alabama.