Today, 4th September, is a birthday. Probably quite a few people's birthdays actually. But today it is the 14th birthday of something quite important to all of us. On September 4th 1998 two unknown students at university, both categorical geeks, launched a new website. Nothing particularly unusual or significant about that. In fact it was a pretty dull looking website. Just a simple logo and a little box to write in. But that day changed the world.
Because those two students were Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and that website was Google. It's hard to imagine a world without Google today. Love it or hate it, it is the most popular way of quickly finding out information about almost anything, anywhere, anytime. It is the source of all knowledge, the quick path to enlightenment and the best way of shutting the kids up when they ask us difficult questions. Interestingly, many people assume that the Spartan layout of the Google home page was a deliberate design choice.
In fact the two students who founded Google didn't really know HTML (the language used to write web pages), and so they just left it as a logo and a text box. They didn't even know how to include a button, and so for a long time there wasn't one, you just had to press 'Enter' to search. In fact for quite a while the founders noted that people would load up Google, and then sit waiting for ages, assuming there was more to come. The founders inserted a copyright link at the bottom just to make it clear that the whole page had actually loaded!
Even the name 'Google' was a mistake. They meant to call it 'Googol', the mathematical word which represents the number one followed by a hundred zeros. It is perhaps comforting to note that one of the most significant companies on the planet got so many things wrong and done badly to begin with. Perhaps there's hope for all of us!