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The Horrible Name that Google was Almost Called and How They Came Up with Google Instead


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SkillCrush

Google is a large tech company headquartered in Mountain View, Calif. Their primary product is the world’s most popular search engine. You can access the Google search engine by typing in “google.com.”

Ha! You didn’t REALLY think I was going to be defining Google, did you?

No, I trust that you have been on the Internet once or twice in the past decade and are aware of Google.

What I wanted to talk about today is how Google got its name. You know, that silly made up word that has now taken its rightful place in the Oxford English Dictionary, right after “goog” (Australian slang for an egg).

Turns out that Google is a misspelling of a real-life mathematical term: googol.

Back sometime in the late ‘90s, Larry Page and Sergey Brin were two graduate students at Stanford. They had been working on a search engine and had given it the name “BackRub.” You know, because their search engine searched through backlinks…right.

Fortunately, they were smart enough to realize that “BackRub” was the worst tech company name in the history of tech companies and that they needed to find something a little more appropriate.

During yet another name brainstorming session, their friend Sean, a fellow graduate student, suggested the word “googolplex.”

Googolplex” is the name for 10 to the power of googol. Googol is the name used by mathematicians to reference 10 to the power of 100, or:

10,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000

That’s 1 plus 100 zeros.

The names “googol” and “googolplex” were originally coined by Milton Sirotta, nephew of Edward Kasner, a famous American mathematician. As Milton put it, “googolplex” was shorthand for a number that was otherwise so large you would have to write “one, followed by writing zeroes until you get tired.” Of course, his uncle found this definition to not be quite specific enough, afterall “different people get tired at different times and it would never do to have Carnera [a famous boxer of the time] be a better mathematician than Dr. Einstein, simply because he had more endurance and could write for longer!” So he gave “googolplex” the official definition of being 10 to the power of googol, or 10 to the power of 10 to the power of 100.

When Sean suggested “googolplex,” Larry responded that he liked the smaller term “googol” but felt like the term in general was a great fit for what they were trying to do: index an unfathomable number of Internet web pages.

Sean, not realizing “googol” was spelled with an “-ol” at the end, searched the Internet to see if the domain “google.com” was available.

Larry liked the new word Sean had accidentally come up with, and voila! Google was named.

Reprinted by permission.

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About the author: Skillcrush

Skillcrush, your ‘how to get started guide to tech.’ You know that mastering technology is key to future success. Increase your tech know-how in collaborative online classes with real-live instructors there to help.

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