Big Kid on the Block Only 10 Years Old

Founded 10 years ago, powerhouse search company looks back on humble beginnings.

September 9, 2008, 6:03 PM

Sept. 9, 2008 — -- Google may well be the most powerful 10-year-old in the world today.

Born in a suburban garage in Northern California, Google was nurtured by two computer students from Stanford University. But in one short decade, the humble, whimsical little search engine has literally changed the way we live.

Founders Sergay Brin and Larry Page formally established Google by incorporating it with the state of California on Sept. 7, 1998. Initially they were just two Ph.D. students unable to get anyone to invest in their big idea.

"They went to various venture capital firms and everybody told them, 'Search doesn't matter,'" said David Vise, author of "The Google Story."

But eventually they got a $100,000 investment from Andy Bechtolsheim, one of Sun Microsystems Inc.'s co-founders. Today Google is accessible in 100 countries, boasts a trillion hits a day and has nearly 20,000 employees. The founders are also each worth $10 billion.

Employee No. 1 at Google was Craig Silverstein, another Stanford Ph.D. student.

"We grew very, very slowly. We had a lot of angst-filled nights," Silverstein said. "In the very early days, I didn't get a paycheck at all because we didn't have anyone working at the company who knew how to run a payroll system in order to get a paycheck. I was happy when I got a paycheck."

Silverstein is still the director of technology at Google, the very same title he held 10 years ago.

Author Vise says Google is the biggest information breakthrough for the masses since the Guttenberg Bible, and it's influencing just about every aspect of our lives.

"Nobody would think about going out on a date without Googling the other person first. Nobody does a business deal without Googling the other person first, so it's changed personal relationships," Vise said. "It permeates our culture and our lives. Google was a noun, but now it's become a verb."

Google has branched out to maps, video, photos, e-mail and Chrome, a brand-new browser unveiled this week. But at its core, Google is still about getting information fast. And the number of users has grown exponentially.

"We used to keep a chart that someone would crayon in every day," Silverstein said. "Eventually we ran out of wall space."

Google has grown so big, so fast that there have been accusations that it has become a sort of Internet Big Brother.

It has been criticized for allowing censorship of sites in China, for violating privacy standards and monopolistic practices. But in many ways, Google is held to a higher standard -- one its founders set for themselves with the unofficial motto: "Don't be evil."

"The idea is just that we should be thinking about what we're doing all the time and make sure that, you know, we're doing good, basically," said co-founder Page. "We thought it was really important as Google grows in scope and influence on the world to have a philanthropic side of the company."

But can it keep up this pace for the next 10 years? Analysts say Google is literally reaching for the stars. It is working closely with NASA on various space projects and quietly working on a genetics project.

"It turns out Google search engine is the perfect match for the human genome, so Google is going to make it possible for you and for us to Google our genes," Vise said. "So what will that mean? You will be able to find out what the probability is of your getting certain illnesses or diseases."

For now, this very rich 10-year-old doesn't need any birthday presents. Its net worth is, after all, $25.9 billion.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events