Sep 27, 2018 at 12:00am ET By G. John Cole

A pair of students operating out of their friend’s garage have created a $110bn search engine that has become a household name.

Okay, so it’s taken twenty years to happen – but as Google’s creators celebrate the tech giant's 20th anniversary, it’s worth taking a look back at their humble roots.

Larry Page already had a BSc in Computer Engineering when he chose to take a tour of Stanford one summer’s day in 1995. He later said of the guy who ran the tour, “I thought he was pretty obnoxious.”

That tour leader was Sergey Brin, then a second-year computer science grad student. He already had his BSc in computer science and math, which he'd got it with honors when he was just 19. So Brin had a reason to be confident and opinionated. Luckily, he hit it off with Page despite their mutual wariness.

And not only did they get on, but they happened to have complementary skills. Networking really does happen the moment you arrive on campus: Brin brought his talent for math to Page’s “Backrub” project, the idea of which was to make internet searches more meaningful by finding and ‘qualifying’ all the pages that link to another page. Those pages with better quality ‘backlinks’ would be more highly ranked.

Sergey and Larry experimented with their new idea on the Stanford homepage, and no doubt a few eyebrows were raised when their tests repeatedly brought down the university's whole internet connection. This was the nineties, after all. But the young geniuses were tolerated. By 1997, Backrub had become Google, their famous URL was registered, and things started to move.

But it wasn’t until 4 September 4 1998, that Google Inc. was incorporated. That’s also the moment when they moved out of their student dorms and into their friend’s garage. The friend’s name was Susan Wojcicki, and she is now CEO at YouTube. But at the time, the main appeal might have been that there was space in the garage for a ping-pong table. After all, there was a lot of hard work ahead.

University life might not always be glamorous, but, as Brin and Page show, with good ideas and the right connections you might just end up changing the world...

John is a digital nomad and freelance writer for higher education and marketing publications. A native Englishman, he is always on the move but can most commonly be spotted in Norway, the UK and the Balkans.

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