Google Used to Be the Company That Did ‘Nothing But Search’

2 minute read

Sixteen years ago today, Larry Page and Sergey Brin were feeling lucky.

On Sept. 4, 1998, the pair of Stanford University grads filed paperwork with the state of California to officially create Google Inc, hoping to turn their ideas about searching and indexing the World Wide Web into a profitable company. Armed with a $100,000 check from a co-founder of the since-acquired Sun Microsystems, Page and Brin went about creating the Google of yesteryear. Back then, this was the Google of Pure Search: There was no talk of giving users free email accounts with ludicrous amounts of storage, no discussion of digitally mapping the entire Earth and certainly not the faintest idea of using tiny aircraft to deliver packages to waiting customers.

It’s hard to remember a Google whose only mission was to make sure that if a Google user typed “Egg McMuffin” into the colorful but ultimately spartan homepage, that user got links to the best and most relevant Egg McMuffin content on the Web. But that’s exactly what Google’s original mission was — and that’s why, on Dec. 20, 1999, TIME included the search engine on as number seven on a top-ten list of the “Best Cybertech” of the year, behind such innovations as the MP3, Everquest and the latest Palm Pilot. Compared to its competitors, TIME wrote, Google succeeded by keeping it simple:

GOOGLE.COM: With sites such as Yahoo, Infoseek and Excite constantly beefing themselves up into the online equivalent of mega-malls, it’s refreshing to find a search engine that does nothing but search. And search well. Google’s award-winning, commonsense approach nearly always seems to come up with exactly what you’re looking for.

Search is still far and away Google’s core product, but by now that little search engine has grown up into much more. Turned out we were wrong about the website’s limits — but not about whether it would be worth watching.

Read the full list here in TIME’s archives: The Best Cybertech of 1999

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