- Google was already a giant in the tech industry by the end of 2009, dominating in ad-search, video-sharing, and mobile operating systems.
- The company was still famously eccentric, housing a dinosaur statue on its Googleplex campus and regularly tweaking its signature logo on the search page to celebrate different events.
- But Google management looked very different: CEO Eric Schmidt presided over the company, as the company board thought the two young cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin needed guidance.
- Alphabet, the parent company created so Page and Brin could mirror Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway business formula, did not yet exist. Nor did many of the ambitious projects that Google now backs.
- And Sundar Pichai, now the face of both Google and Alphabet, was just a vice president of product management back then.
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Google was already a force to be reckoned with by the end of 2009.
The startup had expanded past its humble garage headquarters to a large campus in Mountain View, California. It was the world’s largest internet company, and had all but locked down its dominance of search advertising. It had a growing roster of web services, including YouTube, Gmail, and Google Maps. It had also ventured into the world of software, releasing its open-source Android smartphone software and teasing Chrome OS, its PC operating system, at the end of 2009.
Google was also a Wall Street darling: it had debuted on the stock market at a pricey $85 per share, and has only climbed in value since then. It had also entered China, the white whale of consumer tech markets (although it would announce its withdrawal from the country in January 2010).
Back then, Eric Schmidt was still CEO. Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were still involved with the company, and pursued moonshot bets that are today backed institutionally by the organization’s parent company, Alphabet. Sundar Pichai, who currently presides over both Google and Alphabet, was at the company but as a vice president for product management in charge of Chrome.
And Google had not yet entered the firestorm of controversies it would endure in the last few years. Thousands of employees have staged walkouts at the company in the last year, demanding that the company adhere to its “Don’t be evil” mantra by holding its executives accountable for sexual misconduct. Employee protests also forced Google to end government contracts like Project Maven.
Google also hadn’t yet attracted the scrutiny of Capitol Hill — in recent years, the company has hired an army of lobbyists and lawyers to fend off antitrust probes.
Here’s a look at what Google looked like 10 years ago.
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At least 1,000 Google employees were millionaires, thanks to the company’s 2004 IPO.
Google made one of Silicon Valley’s highest-profile initial public offerings of stock back in 2004, offering shares to investors for $85.
The path to its debut on the market was tumultuous. Silicon Valley investors were bearish about the IPO — famously, Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak told the New York Times that he would not be buying the stock. And its valuation of $27 billion was viewed skeptically by investors.
But in less than five years, Google’s value skyrocketed to $140 billion, leaving many of its employees millionaires, and its founders billionaires.
Eric Schmidt was the Google CEO, but founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin still held voting power and significant influence within the company.
Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin promised their venture capital funders that they would bring on someone to help scale and manage the booming business. But the two founders had struggled to find someone who clicked with them.
Eric Schmidt joined the company as CEO in 2001, three years before the company went public. He was a former CEO of the software company Novell, a respected computer scientist, and importantly for the founders, he’d been to Burning Man.
Schmidt would step away from the company in 2011, when Larry Page took over again as CEO.
Google had already transformed its Mountain View campus into the Googleplex, filled with whimsical additions like the dinosaur statue. Google employee rumor holds that the famous dinosaur skeleton is a reminder to its employees to not go extinct.
Google bought its Mountain View campus in 2006, transforming it into a symbol of Silicon Valley innovation.
The original campus building was well-known for having a slide connecting the first two floors, and its cafeteria offered free meals to employees, which quickly set a trend for other tech companies.
And the company already had a reputation for being quirky, fulfilled through little acts like its Google Doodles.
Google rang in the new year with a signature quirky doodle, blurring the lines between its logo and the number 2009.
Google’s search engine was already a giant. To ‘google’ something was already a part of both people’s vocabularies and the dictionary.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary had already added “googling,” to its list of definitions, as a alternative to “searching the Internet.”
Google’s 2006 acquisition of YouTube, a video-sharing platform, had also proved massively successful. It was the age of YouTube artists.
YouTube’s first video, uploaded in April 2005, was an 18-second clip of cofounder Jawed Karim at the San Diego Zoo.
Less than a year later, the company was bought by Google for $1.6 billion in stock, the company’s biggest-yet acquisition.
The platform quickly became popular, trouncing major American television networks in the number of videos viewed daily. It even boosted some artists to earn millions and gain fame.
Today, that number has grown exponentially — Youtube says that the number of channels earning six figures per year grew by 40% over the last year alone.
Google had begun to map the real world through Google Street View, using millions of panoramic images to help people virtually explore the world.
Introduced in 2007, Google Street View quickly grew to map out streets all over the US, and then internationally in France, Italy, Spain, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand.
Google had taken on Apple and Microsoft with the development of Android, and major cellphone makers were already making Android devices.
HTC was the first smartphone company to adopt the free Android software in 2008, but mobile companies quickly caught on to the trend.
Just a year later, Motorola had dropped Windows Mobile entirely in favor of Google’s Android.
Today, Android is the most popular operating system on the planet.
The web browser Google Chrome was beginning to become a part of people’s lives, and Google had begun to tease its new computer operating system, Chrome OS, led by current CEO Sundar Pichai.
Currently Sundar Pichai is the CEO of both Google and its parent company, Alphabet. But a decade ago, he was in charge of Google’s Chrome initiative.
Google announced in 2009 that it would be entering the PC operating system game, building its challenge to Microsoft and Apple.
The company teased its new open-source code in November 2009, and promised to release it by 2010.
Today, Chromebooks all run on Google’s Chrome OS.
Google’s parent company, Alphabet, did not yet exist in 2009.
Google’s parent company, Alphabet, was only created in 2015 as an attempt to replicate Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway business formula.
Page and Brin announced that they were reorganizing Google’s structure so it could better pursue its more ambitious goals, termed “other bets” in the company’s corporate structure.
Today, Alphabet presides over a host of companies, including life-science focused Verily, the city-planning firm Sidewalk Labs, artificial intelligence lab DeepMind, and the self-driving car company Waymo.