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People are just learning what ‘Google’ actually means and the bizarre name the search engine almost had

People are just learning what ‘Google’ actually means and the bizarre name the search engine almost had

Sometimes mistakes make for the best stories, right?

Google may almost be 26 years old but people are only just discovering what it means - and that the popular search engine initially went by another moniker.

In 1996, computer scientists Larry Page and Sergey Brin started working on Google as a research project, two years before its official launch.

The pair - who were studying for PhDs at Stanford University - hadn’t yet decided on the name ‘Google’ and gave it another name instead.

Now, what Google was going to be called certainly doesn't have the same ring to it.

And you'll be glad they changed it.

Ready to hear it...?

They were instead calling the search engine ‘BackRub’.

According to David Koller at the university’s Computer Science Department, the nickname was formed due to the site analysing the web’s backlinks.

BackRub was made live on Stanford servers in 1996 but it was only around for a year before officials came knocking.

It was alleged that representatives from the Californian institution were unhappy with how much bandwidth the website was taking up.

So, Page and Brin went back to the drawing board and decided they needed their site to be bigger, better and to lose the name BackRub.

It’s said that in 1997, Page was throwing names around in the office he shared with fellow graduate students Tamara Munzner, Lucas Pereira and Sean Anderson.

Koller claims that they were using a whiteboard to come up with monikers and wanted to come up with ‘something that related to the indexing of an immense amount of data.’

“Sean Anderson had verbally suggested the word ‘googolplex,’ and Larry responded verbally with the shortened form, ‘googol’ (both words refer to specific large numbers),” he explained.

SOPA Images / Contributor / Getty
SOPA Images / Contributor / Getty

“Sean was seated at his computer terminal, so he executed a search of the internet domain name registry database to see if the newly suggested name was still available for registration and use.

“Sean is not an infallible speller, and he made the mistake of searching for the name spelt as ‘,’ which he found to be available.

“Larry liked the name, and within hours he took the step of registering the name ‘’ for himself and Sergey.”

Therefore Google - registered as a domain on September 15, 1997 - is actually a typo of ‘googol’.

A googol is a large number defined as ten to the power of 100. It’s essentially represented as one followed by 100 zeros.

Googolplex is ten to the power of a googol or one followed by a googol of zeros.

According to the search engine itself ‘Google’ is a play on the word ‘googol’ and is used to reflect the company’s mission to ‘organize a seemingly infinite amount of information on the web.’

After landing on the name in 1997, Google filed for incorporation in California on September 4 and the rest, as they say, is history.

Featured Image Credit: NurPhoto / Contributor / UCG / Contributor / Getty