The Strange Name Of Your Favorite Search Engine Before It Was Google

What search engine did you use before Google? Do you remember a time before it? For those who surfed the web before, you might remember a time when you used WebCrawler, Lycos, Yahoo!, InfoSeek, AltaVista or even asked Jeeves to find something.

The 90s is the decade that ushered in the Internet, and it was during these early years of the World Wide Web where Larry Page and Sergey Brin enter the picture. 

The year is 1995; the place is Stanford University. Page had just earned a computer engineering degree from the University of Michigan and was searching for a place to attend grad school. Stanford was high on his list, so he went to the prestigious West Coast school to check it out.

Russian-born Sergey Brin was enrolled in Stanford's graduate program at the time. When Page showed up for a tour, the school appointed Brin to show him around and thus began a friendship that would change the world.

This is not the backrub Brin and Page meant

Fast forward a year to 1996. Brin and Page have been banging out code for what they hoped would be a revolutionary new way to search the expanding World Wide Web.

Their idea differed from existing search engines that ranked sites based on how many times it showed up in a search phrase. Instead, they created an algorithm that tracked a website's backlinks – how many other websites linked back to a site. For instance, a page with hundreds or thousands of "backlinks" would, in essence, be more "valuable" than a much less visited page with only a few backlinks and thus get ranked higher in the search results.

Brin and Page called their search engine Backrub because of the "backlink" thing. 

Jump ahead another year to 1997. "Backrub" had been running on Stanford's servers, but as it gained momentum, the site traffic became too much for the college's servers to handle. Brin and Page then relocated. The move precipitated a wholesale change, so the dynamic duo started working on a new name along with the new location.

Googolplex, googol, google

According to David Koller, who was part of Stanford University's computer science department and graphics laboratory at the time, said Page and some coworkers were bouncing new names around, centered around the idea of how much data the search engine was truly indexing.

Another student, Sean Anderson, tossed out the word "googolplex," a mathematical term for the number one (1) followed by so many zeroes you can't actually write them all out. Larry countered with a smaller yet still massive number called a googol, the number one (1) followed by one hundred zeros. Both are enormously huge amounts that perfectly fit the idea they were trying to convey.

Koller claims that when Anderson searched if "googol" was an available Internet domain he instead misspelled the word and entered "google." The domain was registered on September 15, 1997, and the rest is history.

Don't believe us? Go ahead, Google it. Can you imagine "Backrubbing" something instead?