What Was Google Like in 1999? What It Looked Like and Interesting Facts

Google in 1999

What Was Google Like in 1999? What It Looked Like and Interesting Facts

Key Points

  • Google’s homepage in 1999 was similar to its current design, with a multi-color logo and a search bar, but it had an exclamation point and the word “beta” to indicate it was still in the testing phase.
  • The concept of the Google Doodle was born in 1998, when the founders asked designers to add a stick-figure man behind one of the ‘o’s in Google.
  • Google’s search results in 1999 were similar to today’s, but with less metadata and a lower number of search result matches.
  • Google was ad-free in 1999 and didn’t introduce ads until 2000.
  • In 1999, Google had a small staff of around 50 employees and generated a revenue of $220,000.
  • Larry Page and Sergey Brin tried to sell Google for $1 million in 1999, but the offer was rejected. Excite, the company they approached, went bankrupt in 2001.

Google has changed a lot in the last 25 years, but in some ways, it’s still the same search engine that debuted in 1998. It launched in early September 1998 and was still in the testing phase when 1999 rolled around. Its first full year as a company — 1999 — was a major year of growth for the popular search engine. Here’s a look at what Google was like in 1999. 

What Was Google’s Homepage Like in 1999?

Google’s homepage actually hasn’t changed much over the years. In 1999, the Google logo was a similar multi-color graphic, but it had an exclamation point at the end. The same search bar we know today was there, as was the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button that takes you directly to the website of the first search result. The word “beta” appeared under the logo, because Google was still in beta mode in 1999, meaning they were still testing out the new technology.

Google in 1999
Google’s homepage in 1999 was similar to today’s homepage.


The Concept of the Google Doodle Was Born

In 1998, the founders of the company asked designers to add a stick-figure man that resembled the man from Burning Man behind one of the “o”s in Google, meant to signify that they would be out of the office during Burning Man. 

After that doodle appeared, a few other doodles were created, and Google even asked some other designers to create versions of the Google logo, shown below. In 2000, Google asked their designers to make more doodles, and the Google Doodle was born. 

Leaving Beta

In October 1999, Google took the “beta” off of its homepage, ending the testing phase of the company. It added links to an About page for the company and a link to jobs at the company, which started its rapid growth phase. 

What Were Google’s Search Results Like in 1999?

In 1999, Google worked very similarly to the way it does now. After entering in a search, you would land on the search results page which would give you a list of websites that match your search term. 

In 1999, the site would use its PageRank algorithm to give you a percentage of how close to your search term the result is. It would also give you information on the site based on what was available. 

Metadata (which is what is used to populate the headlines and snippets of search results) was not popular back then, so many of the results just listed the URL in the headline and very little information in the snippet. 

At the top of the page, Google would show you how many search result matches were made from your search term, much like it does today. In 1999, that number was much lower, sometimes only in the thousands instead of the millions of results Google finds today. 

Google Was Ad-free

Google didn’t introduce ads until 2000, so Google was ad-free in 1999. The ads above and below the search results did not appear in 1999, so all the search results were organic traffic. 

What Was Google’s Business Like in 1999? 

Google was incorporated in late 1998. So at the beginning of 1999, it was still in the testing phase, for both the website and the business. Google went through a lot of growing pains in 1999 before it started its rapid growth into the billion-dollar industry it is today. It went from ten thousand search queries per day at the end of 1998 to over 3.5 million search queries a day toward the end of 1999. 

There was a very small staff — small enough to fit into one small corner of the office, as shown by this video of a TGIF meeting at Google from 1999. The year saw Google’s workforce grow from a handful of people to over 50 employees. This video, shot by the 11-year-old son of one of Google’s first employees, gives an interesting behind-the-scenes look at Google offices in 1999. 

The search engine’s revenue for 1999 was $220,000, which was impressive considering they had not embraced advertising yet. That number would jump to $20 million in 2000 after they introduced their advertising platform Adworks. 

Selling Google in 1999

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google, tried to sell the site in 1999 for $1 million to the then-popular Excite. The CEO of Excite, George Bell, rejected their offer. When one of Excite’s venture capitalists tried to convince Brin and Page to offer a smaller price, they tried again at $750,000, but the CEO rejected them again. Excite went bankrupt in 2001. It is said to be one of the biggest financial mistakes in business history. 

Funding Google in 1999

Google received its first big infusion of cash in 1999. Until then, they had raised about $1 million from family, friends, and angel investors, including Jeff Bezos of Amazon

In June of 1999, Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins gave Google $25 million in funding to help grow the business. The company used the money to start hiring a workforce and enhancing the technology behind its PageRank software. 

Moving Google in 1999

Google moved offices twice in 1999. The first move was to Palo Alto, CA, which housed some of the biggest Silicon Valley companies during the time. The company quickly grew from there, and before the year was over, they had moved offices to a bigger space in Palo Alto. 

The company moved once more before settling in Mountain View, CA, where they began to build their Googleplex headquarters. They are still based there today. 


Since 1999, Google has experienced significant growth. It went from under a million searches per year in 1999 to over a trillion searches per year today. It grew from a handful of employees at the start of 1999 to almost 200,000 employees now. In 1999, its revenue for the year was $220,000. Now, it’s closer to $300 billion. Despite its humble beginnings, Google has exploded into a major global company.

Frequently Asked Questions

When did Google start?

Google was founded as a company in September of 1998. The site was already live and was built as a school project in 1996 when Sergey Brin and Larry Page were students at Stanford. The project was based on Page’s interest in using data to rank websites, which he called PageRank. Google still uses it today. 

Who founded Google?

Sergey Brin and Larry Page. In 2019, they stepped down from their roles at Google, but joined the board so they could still have insight into the company. 

What was Google originally named?

BackRub. At its most basic iteration while Sergey Brin and Larry Page were still at school, the site was called BackRub. BackRub used the original PageRank algorithm that Brin and Page created. 

The name was changed to Google, which is a misspelling of the term googol, which is the number 1 followed by 100 zeros.

What were the most popular search engines in 1999?

Google was not the most popular search engine in 1999. Yahoo and Excite were the two most popular search engines at the time, followed by sites like AltaVista and Lycos. Yahoo is the only one that still exists today. 

How many searches did Google perform in 1999?

In 1999, Google performed 795,200,000 searches. They had over 10x more searches in 2000 at 9,238,200,000. Today they perform trillions of searches every year. 

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