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Google Turns 20: 10 Things You Might Not Know About The Internet Giant

Google, arguably one of the most influential companies on the planet, is 20 years old.

Like many of the American tech giants, it was started in 1998 in a garage by two friends Larry Page and Sergey Brin and has evolved into a company that defines how we learn new information in a connected world.


Larry Page (L), Co-Founder and President, Products and Sergey Brin, Co-Founder and President, Technology pose inside the server room at Google’s campus headquarters in Mountain View. They founded the company in 1998. (Photo by Kim Kulish/Corbis via Getty Images)

Since then the company has grown far beyond its original purpose. Google can tell you the quickest way to work, it can then provide you with the emails you need while you’re at work and finally it’ll keep you occupied over lunch with the latest videos.

It’s a fascinating company that has been responsible for as many incredible innovations as it has controversies, from the creation of Google Glass to its privacy policy that led us to discover just how much Google knows about us.

Here are 10 things you might not know about Google:

1. Google’s search engine was originally called Backrub.

This is not a joke. Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Bring originally came up with the name while they were at Stanford University together.

Thankfully they ditched the original name and settled on Google, the mathematical expression for a 1 followed by 100 zeros.

2. Android wasn’t actually built by Google.

Think of a smartphone, any smartphone. Odds are it’s either an iPhone or an Android smartphone. From the Samsung Galaxy S9 to the OnePlus 6, Google’s operating system for phones has become the main rival to Apple’s iPhone.

Except Android wasn’t actually created by Google. It was created independently and then bought by Google for $50m. Bargain.

3. Scientists discovered a hidden forest in Africa using Google Earth.

In 2005, Kew Gardens biologist Julian Bayliss was looking for African rainforest sites using Google Earth. He stumbled upon Mount Mabu in Mozambique, a vast forest that hardly anyone had heard of.

While the locals of course knew about Mabu, the lack of roads and a long-running civil war meant that to the scientific community this vast rainforest had gone completely undetected.


Nicknamed the ‘Google Forest’, Mount Mabu has since been granted a protected status by the Mozambique government against commercial logging, all thanks to the curiosity of a biologist on his computer.

4. An employee created Gmail as a hobby.

Gmail might be one of the most-used email services in the world but its beginnings are considerably more humble.

It was actually created by Paul Buchheit in 1996 when he first came up with the idea of creating a web-based email service. He panned the idea until Google then told him to start working seriously on a new email product, the result was Gmail.

It was revolutionary at the time offering 1GB of storage (500x more than Hotmail offered) and a search engine that actually let you search your emails. It was launched on 1 April 2004 and for while journalists actually wondered if it was just a hoax.

5. Google probably knows where you are right now.

Google’s incredible innovations haven’t been without controversy. It collects a staggering amount of information about you as a person from the places you visit to the videos you watch.

All of this information is then stored by Google and used to make its products (and its client’s adverts) better.

After receiving a serious backlash against its transparency over the amount of information it has, Google finally revealed a privacy page which shows everything Google knows about you.

6. We make over 2 trillion searches every single year.

Despite its size Google very rarely reveals just how many searches are made every year.

The last time it did reveal any numbers was in 2016 when it confirmed that people were probably making “over” 2 trillion searches every year. In case you’re wondering that’s around 5.4 billion searches every single day.

7. Google only started tracking search in 2002, so here’s the top UK searches from then:

  1. BBC
  2. Big Brother
  3. EasyJet
  4. Britney Spears
  5. Ryanair
  6. Gareth Gates
  7. Weather
  8. Kylie Minogue
  9. World Cup
  10. Holly Valance

Well this takes us back…

8. YouTube was bought by Google in 2006 for $1.6bn. Today it’s worth over $100bn.

YouTube was founded by former PayPal employees Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim in 2005. The site was launched and the first ever YouTube video was uploaded by Jawed himself. You can still watch it:

In 2006 Google bought YouTube for $1.6bn, a huge sum of money at the time and a bold move for a website that was only a year old. Today, YouTube is estimated to be worth over $100bn with people watching over a billion hours of video every single day.

That’s a deal even Donald Trump has to respect.

9. Google is actually owned by an EVEN bigger company.

In 2015 it was announced that a new company would be created called Alphabet. This would be the parent company for Google, YouTube and many of the other divisions that now made up the tech giant’s portfolio.

At the time Larry Page said: “This newer Google is a bit slimmed down, with the companies that are pretty far afield of our main Internet products contained in Alphabet instead.”

Alphabet’s website is

10. 1 in 3 adverts on the internet are actually delivered by Google.

In fact 95% of Google’s revenue comes from advertising. Every time you search for something, watch a YouTube video or use Google Maps you’re actually helping Google makes its money.


Written by How Africa

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