eWEEK at 30: Google Rises From Search Startup to Web Service Behemoth

eWEEK 30: Google started as a search engine company in 1998 amid a sea of competitors. Today, it is the leading ad revenue machine and it's determined to challenge the likes of Amazon.com in cloud computing.

When Google celebrated its 15th birthday in September, it held a media event in the Menlo Park, Calif., garage that was originally rented in 1998 for $1,700 a month as the company's first headquarters. Things have certainly changed for the company in the intervening years since its garage days.

The company's history so far has been marked by a rapid succession of remarkable milestones as noted on Google's corporate timeline. When Google first went live, it was a bare bones search engine startup with a starkly simple home page and two young founders with a dream of building a better way to search the Internet.

Co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin met at Stanford University in 1995, and by the following year, they had created a search engine "that used links to determine the importance of individual Web pages," according to the company's Website. That search engine originally was named "BackRub." Later, Page and Brin named it Google, which was a play on the word "googol," the mathematical term for a 1 followed by 100 zeros.

In 2000, a watershed event occurred within the small but rapidly growing company when it introduced Google AdWords, which offered a way for advertisers to create and establish online ad campaigns. AdWords were the start of the revenue growth at Google.

The introduction of Google's free email service, Gmail, happened on April Fools' Day in 2004, which was followed that August by Google's Initial Public Offering, when investors snapped up 19.6 million shares of Class A common stock, which was a strikingly small number of shares, especially by today's IPO standards.

Also in 2004, Google acquired digital mapping company Keyhole, which resulted in the launch of Google Maps and Google Earth in 2005, according to Google. YouTube, the online video sharing site, was acquired in 2006. Then Google launched the Android mobile operating system in 2007 to the eternal fury of Apple and other mobile OS competitors.

Then the open-source Chrome Web browser was unveiled in September 2008, followed by the Google+ social media initiative in June of 2011.

One thing has remained from those first days, however. Even 15 years later, Google still acts like a start-up by innovating, trying offbeat ideas and experimenting using a wide swath of technologies to see what is possible.

It left its early competitors in the dust by turning its search engine into a huge advertising revenue machine that has no peer. It's also built and grown a powerful search infrastructure and is beginning to leverage it to serve as a cloud platform for a growing number of business customers.

It's also a research and development company that has hatched and nurtured some crazy-yet-seemingly-viable ideas such as self-driving cars, Google Glass eyewear-mounted computers and "moonshot" research projects that could someday inspire more new ideas, innovations and even new businesses. They're even working on a project that uses high-altitude balloons to bring high-speed Internet access to remote places.

Inside Google's workplaces, employees are encouraged to collaborate and explore inside a culture that is often described by Google alums as "inspiring." Today, Google, which is based in Mountain View, Calif., has more than 70 offices in more than 40 nations around the world.