Happy Birthday Google! ... Or Is it Goog11e?

Is the search giant, marking its 11th birthday with a new "Goog11e" logo?

September 4, 2009, 12:30 PM

Sept. 27, 2009 — -- Why does "Google" have two "l"s in its name today?

Mousing over the altered logo "Googlle" -- or is it "Goog11e"? -- reveals the alt text, "Google's 11th Birthday," a milestone Google is celebrating this month.

So is today the actual birthday? That may not be quite so simple to nail down.

The corporate history says Google has sometimes marked both Sept. 7 and Sept. 27 -- today -- as its birthday.

Sept. 4 also has been bandied about as a birthday of sorts -- connecting as it does to a fairly mundane event in Google's history. On Sept. 4, 1998, the company filed papers establishing it as a California corporation.

Google gave up on the specifics a few years ago and posted a page saying, "Google opened its doors in September 1998. The exact date when we celebrate our birthday has moved around over the years, depending on when people feel like having cake."

Today must be cake day -- though Google's media office did not immediately respond on this Sunday to a request for explicit confirmation.

However, besides the alt text hint, clicking on the logo linked to a search page with a number of references to the 11-year milestone. Not only did the search page's URL contain the element "11th_birthday" within its name, but the first result on that page, headlined "Google" and linking back to the search engine's home page, also contained the term "Google's 11th Birthday."

Pegging 1998 as Google's founding year may be no slam-dunk, either.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the two Stanford graduate students who started Google, met in 1995 -- when Page was considering going to Stanford and Brin was assigned to give him a campus tour.

In 1996, they began working together on a search engine called BackRub, which was successful enough to crash the Stanford computers that hosted it. By Sept. 15, 1997, they had registered the online name "Google" (there's an archived version of their original home page, but you'll find it doesn't work), and in 1998 they began to run it out of the garage of a friend, Susan Wojcicki. Brin would later marry her sister, Anne.

Those were heady days in Silicon Valley, with companies popping up out of nowhere, attracting venture capital even if they had no idea when they would turn a profit. Google insisted on going slowly; it would not start selling stock until 2004.

"We sort of wanted to be profitable much before it was fashionable," said Page in an interview with ABC News in 2002.

"The people who were out there just to get rich quick, those have faded off," said Brin.

Now the company is big enough to be a verb -- you "Google" something if you search for it on the Web. (You don't "ExxonMobil" your car when the tank is low, or go "Walmarting" for bargains.) Alexa.com, a service that monitors online traffic, reports that 34 percent of global Internet users visit Google on a given day.

Happy Birthday, Google

And if you go onto Google.com and search for Google itself, you'll hit news stories about how it's running into resistance in its efforts to digitize the world's books. It has designed a computer operating system, integrated with its year-old Chrome Web browser, to compete with Microsoft's Windows. Its managers talk a lot about "cloud computing," in which your documents, programs and other material are stored online, instead of in your own machine or handheld.

The company's sheer size and dominance on the Web have led to lawsuits and accusations that they want to rule the world, and they've had to play down the "Don't be Evil" slogan that took hold more than 10 years ago.

"If they were putting together a moniker today, I think they'd be a little more savvy about it," said Danny Sullivan of SearchEngineLand.com, a Web site that follows Google and its competitors. "They want to do good things, make the world a better place, but they're also a corporation."

It would be hard to squeeze all of Google's 19,000 employees into one room for cake.

But one day this month, they were expected to mark the anniversary with a cupcake in the logo or some other modification. Today must be the day.

ABC News' Michael S. James contributed to this report.

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