Internet search was considered such a low priority at the time that Page and Brin couldn't even find anyone willing to pay a couple of million dollars to buy their technology. Instead, they got a $100,000 investment from one of Sun Microsystems Inc.'s co-founders, Andy Bechtolsheim, and filed incorporation papers so they could cash a check made out to Google Inc. In a nod to their geeky roots as children of computer science and math professors, Page and Brin had derived the name from the mathematical term "googol" - a 1 followed by 100 zeros.
Later they would raise a total of about $26 million from family, friends and venture capitalists to help fund the company and pay for now-famous employee perks like free meals and snacks.
Even after Google became an official company in 1998, the business continued to operate out of the founders' Stanford dorm rooms.
Like Google's stripped-down home page, the company itself had a bare-bones aesthetic. Page's room was converted into a "server farm" for the three computers that ran the search engine, which then processed about 10,000 requests per day compared with about 1.5 billion per day now. The headquarters were in Brin's room in a neighboring dorm hall, where the founders and Silverstein wrestled for control of another computer to bang out programming code.
Within a few weeks after incorporating, Google moved into the garage of a Menlo Park, Calif., home owned by Susan Wojcicki, who became a Google executive and is now Brin's sister-in-law (Google bought the house in 2006). Even back in 1998, there was some free food - usually bags of M&Ms and Silverstein's homemade bread.
Jump back to today: The company occupies a 1.5 million-square-foot headquarters called the "Googleplex" - as well as two dozen other U.S. offices and hubs in more than 30 other countries. And its search engine - believed to index at least 40 billion Web pages - now runs on hundreds of thousands of computers kept in massive data centers around the world.
The growth dumbfounds Silverstein, whose only goal when he started was to help make Google successful enough to employ 80 people.
"It's natural when a company gets big that some people become fearful of that," Silverstein said. "All we can do is to be as upfront and straightforward as possible. We are not trying to be malicious or have some sneaky plan to put you in our thrall. There are some people who will never believe that."