Larry Page and Sergey Brin

Page and Brin met as Stanford graduate students in 1995. They argued constantly but became inseparable friends, sometimes called “larryandsergey” by classmates.


The Internet and Web are about sharing and using information. An important part of that process is finding information, often through search engines like Google.

So Much Information in So Little Time

Rummaging through books for the word “rosebud” might take days. But searching for “rosebud” on the Web—bigger than millions of books—takes under a second.

The Web also transforms the tedious process of looking up cross-references, like “see volume IV page 39.” They’re called clickable links on the Web, and they’re instant.

How Do Searches Find?

Automated “crawler” programs visit every available Web site, creating an index of the words they find. When users search on a word, the engine compares it to that index, ranking results based on nearby words and the number of links.

New York Public Library Reading Room

To help us find specific items, libraries organize books using structured schemes like the Dewey Decimal System. The Web is mostly unstructured, providing only links and keyword searches to find what we want.

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CERN Virtual Library

Started by the Web development team in 1991, the Library was a “card catalog” for the growing Web, with each category curated by an expert.

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DEC Alta Vista search engine

AltaVista was the most popular web search engine before Google. Although its user base grew like wildfire, AltaVista did not thrive under ailing computer maker DEC.

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Searching for Profit

Searching the Web is immensely useful. But is it a profitable business? For a decade, the answer was “no.”

Web search was a perennial money loser. For engines like Lycos, AskJeeves, and later AltaVista and Google, banner ads brought income, but not profits. Then, in 2000 Google turned itself—and the search industry— into the iconic Web triumph by refining GoTo.com’s insight: advertisers would pay to place links near search results where keywords appeared, like “Petco.com” near “kitten”.

An auction feature let advertisers bid on keywords. AdWords, Google’s revenue generator, was born.

Searching for Profit: Gary Chevsky: Banners and Pop-Ups

Chapter Menu

1. Annoying Banners and Pop-Ups
2. Ads that Work

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GoTo.com: search based advertising

GoTo.com (later Overture) pioneered the mechanism Google later based its revenue on: advertisers paying to place links near search results related to particular keywords.

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Mid-Westerner Larry Page and Russian-born Sergey Brin met as computer science graduate students in the mid-1990s—just as fellow Stanford students Jerry Yang and David Filo were founding Yahoo!

Page proposed ranking Web pages by how often other pages link to them. The Stanford Digital Library Project supported an experimental search engine. Google was born.

Google search engine

This is what Google’s few early users—mostly other students and faculty—saw when the search engine was an experimental project by Stanford students Page and Brin.

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Noogler propellor hat

This traditional headdress was given to new Google employees, i.e. New Googlers or “Nooglers.” In American popular culture a “propeller head” is a nerd.

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Google guide mug

This mug showed that Google recognized keyword commands as a request for specific information, like “define arabica,” or “weather New York,” or “15% of 233.”

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