The world’s biggest internet company just came of age. And Google is celebrating its 18th birthday as only it can – with a Doodle on its homepage.
But the question that drawing asks – when exactly is Google’s birthday – is one that the usually unbelievably well-informed search engine doesn’t actually know the answer to. Or, rather, it has so many birthdays that it’s too difficult just to pick one.
And that’s just one of the strange, often joyfully confusing facts about the most informative company on the internet. Here are 18 facts, one for each of the company’s years on Earth – or probably.
1. Nobody knows when its birthday is
The question of today’s Doodle – when is Google’s birthday? – isn’t actually answerable. The company has six birthdays, at least, and has just decided to start celebrating it on 27 September. You can find a full run down of how that actually happened here.
2. And it might even be 19 years old
One of its potential birthdays was in 1995, meaning that it wouldn’t even be 18 at all.
Google’s new offices in King’s Cross
3. There’s a T-Rex on the Google Campus, and it has a slightly terrifying message
But Google is already feeling death breathing down its neck – or is worried that it might. The company’s campus has a huge model of a T-Rex skeleton, which is meant to remind employees not to let the company go extinct.
4. And there’s a T-Rex game hiding in Google Chrome as well
And if you press the space bar when that’s showing, it will start a game where you run along as the dinosaur, jumping over any obstacles by pressing the space bar again. The game will last forever, because all of the obstacles are generated by the code.
Most of those can be found in search. And they tend to be fairly obvious, once yo know what they are – searching “askew” sends the results all crooked, for instance. You can find a full list of them here.
6. Google wasn’t very happy with becoming a generic word for searching
The company worried that the word – as in the phrase, “just Google it” – would undermine all of the work it had done to make its brand recognizable.
7. Google buys more other companies than you can imagine
Some estimates put Google’s buying habits at more than one company per week. Most of them are small – but some of them can be huge.
Many of the products simply get folded into others. But others, like Android, continue to exist on their own within Google’s fold – and, in that case, go on to be one of its most recognised products.
It very rarely sells them on again, though.
8. Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” button costs tens of millions of dollars per year
This button might seem like just a bit of fun, and that’s mostly what it is. But it’s expensive fun, for Google.
By just taking the user straight through to the first result, Google also skips past all the advertising that it would usually show to people when they get up to the results page. That means that it misses out on the advertising revenue, too.
But the company has been gradually getting around this, with a set of features that mean you probably wouldn’t even notice it.
Google Instant means that so long as you have it turned on and your connection is fast enough, for instance, you’ll start seeing results as soon as you start typing.
And Google is able to collect enough information about you as you browse around the internet that it can be fairly sure you’ll come into contact with one of its ads, even if not immediately.
9. The first ever Google storage was made of Lego
Nowadays, Google is one of the world’s biggest data storage companies – filling warehouse upon warehouse with servers to store people’s work, photos, emails and everything else. But at its very beginning, when it was known just as Backrub, its first storage was just a load of hard drives housed in a container built of Lego.
10. Google gives very generous payouts to the husbands and wives of people who die while working for them
They’ll receive 50 per cent of their salary for the next decade. And their children receive a payout until they’re grown up, too.
11. One Google search uses more computing power than it took to send the Apollo 11 astronauts to the moon
Searching Google is easy and takes just miliseconds. But the computing and networking power required to look through almost all of the known internet is huge – far more huge than the relatively minor amount of code and computing that it took to put humans on the moon.
12. Google once went down for five minutes, and took 40 per cent of web traffic with it
On 19 August, 2013, Google stopped working for five minutes. And it took much of the internet with it.
While other companies have looked to challenge Google’s dominance in search, it still represents a huge part of the web.
Nowadays, such an outage would be unlikely to cause such a problem – other sites, mostly Facebook, have challenged Google’s dominance as the central linking place of the world. But Google still accounts for a huge part of everything anyone finds or looks at on the internet.
13. Google hires goats
Google’s headquarters are big, and lots of it is green. So much of it is grass that it would need a lot of lawnmowers – but Google has a novel way around that.
Instead of gas-powered machines, Google hires a load of goats to clear the fields around its campus.
They visit for about a week at a time, and about 200 of them come to much up the Google grass.
The goats don’t guzzle gas, pollute the air or make as much noise. And they have the advantage of being “a lot cuter to watch than law mowers”, Google’s employees have noted.
14. And there are lots of dogs at Google too
Google’s office is very dog friendly. It says that letting people bring in their pups makes employees a lot happier.
Cats aren’t as encouraged – simply because they tend to be upset by the dogs. They’re not banned.
15. Indeed, one dog – the first ever – has the title of Top Dog
Yoshka is the only dog to be credited in Google’s official history – from when he joined alongside owner (and senior vice president of operations) Urs Hölzle early on in the company’s life in 1999. Yoshka even wrote a blog post on Google’s site, presumably dictating it – noting that there were now many other dogs, some much smaller than himself, but that all of them were welcome.
16. Google’s logo wasn’t in the middle until 2001
The simplicity of the Google homepage belies the fact that it is one of the most viewed things in the history of the world. So even the tiniest changes are significant – and some very not tiny changes were made in the site’s early development.
For instance, in the first few years the site was around, its logo was aligned slightly to the left. That came to an end in 2001, when Google finally moved it into the middle.
17. And it’s been making tiny little changes ever since
The company has been making the smallest adjustments to its logo ever since. Those have included, for instance, a minor change to the layout of the letters in its name. But they’ve also included big changes to how the words are written, including a new font.
But all of those are noticed and often marked in discussion about the company.
18. And those changes include its entire name
Perhaps the biggest change in recent years was to entirely alter the name of Google – and change it to Alphabet.
The alteration – which didn’t turn out to be as big or significant as it first seemed – essentially meant that the company called Google just ate up the search, internet and information bits of the business. All of the other bits that had traditionally also been called Google moved under the ownership of Alphabet – which also owned Google, the newly created search company.
Since then, most of the things that happen that people hear about continue to come out of Google. And often when they come from another company – like X, which makes its self-driving cars – everyone just calls it Google anyway.