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happy birthday

Why can’t Google work out when it was born?

happy birthday

Why can’t Google work out when it was born?

If you’ve used Google this morning, you’ll probably have seen that it’s celebrating its own birthday with a Doodle today, and what better way to start your search than with a party hat-wearing letter G blowing up a balloon and turning it into an ‘oogle’ before floating off? Clearly, G can exhale helium.

The scientific improbability of the Doodle, designed by illustrator and animator Gerben Steenks, is not the only thing confusing about the celebration of Google’s 18th birthday. There’s the small matter of the date as well.

Wikipedia and Google’s own company history give Google’s incorporation date as September 4th, 1998, but that date this year passed by without so much as a murmur from the search engine about its coming of age. That day’s Doodle in 2016 marked Father’s Day in Australia and New Zealand.

A trawl through Google’s archive of Doodles shows that it was pretty lax about announcing its definite birthday until reasonably recently. In 2003, its celebratory Doodle came on September 8th. A year later, it came a day earlier. It suddenly jumped forward to September 26th in 2005, and as of 2006, September 27th has become its official birthday.

So, where does this date come from, and why did Google decide in the mid ‘00s that it wanted to change it? Was it just a pre-pubescent tantrum from the now adult-aged search engine? When is Google’s real birthday?

That depends on what you consider to be Google’s ‘birth’. You could argue that the site is now in its twenties, as founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin began working on it in January 1996. However, perhaps we should see this as when Page and Brin got together, had that chat and ‘conceived’ Google rather than gave birth to it.

Google.com was officially registered on September 15th, 1997, meaning that as a recognised entity, it celebrated its 19th birthday a couple of weeks ago. This is perhaps akin to a parent who decides on and shares their baby’s name before he or she is born, and then realises they’re stuck with it.

September 4th, 1998 is acknowledged by the company itself as its founding date, but it’s official birthday is now celebrated more than three weeks later. This appears to be because in 2005, it made a September 26th announcement about an expanded search index and decided to double it up with a reminder that it was Google’s birthday, or ‘birthmonth’ as it were. The following year, it was put back another day, and September 27th seems to be the day it has settled upon.

So, when is Google’s birthday? Whenever it wants, and it seems to want it today. Happy birthday Google!

John Murray
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