In the 21st century, Google is a household name—even among the households that don’t use it. Back in the late 20th century, 1996 to be exact, Google was unheard of. The precursor to Google, the earliest collaboration between Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, was nicknamed—rather oddly—BackRub.
Rather oddly, that is, until you consider how the fledgling search engine platform was operating. It loaded webpages, then scanned the backlinks, determining not only what individual webpages were linking to, but which webpages were linking to them. If this sounds familiar, it is because the general concept would go on to be the foundation of the modern “PageRank” system. BackRub was just a fun wordplay on how much time the servers spent “massaging” the backlinks.
The “BackRub” moniker hung on through 1996 and into late 1997 when they registered Google.com. In the fall of 1998, the ambitious pair incorporated Google. What started as a project between two friends on a college campus with a computer case cobbled together from plastic sheets and LEGO bricks grew into the world’s largest search provider over the next decade. How much of that growth can be attributed to ditching the awkward name BackRub, the world will never know.
Image courtesy of Google/Stanford.