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Google on Tablet

Have you worked out what’s going on in Google’s 20th birthday Doodle?

Google on Tablet

Have you worked out what’s going on in Google’s 20th birthday Doodle?

As we’ve mentioned before, Google has displayed some confusion in the past over what day it was actually born on, but it now seems to have settled on September 27. Since it was set up in 1998, that means the search engine officially turns 20 years old today.

You may already have noticed that Google’s doodle for the day is a video lasting a little over a minute and a half that journeys through each of those 20 years and gives some of the most frequently Googled questions in various languages.

There’s a lot going on in the video, which begins with that ear-piercing dialling tone noise many of us were familiar with in 1998, and throws in internet references you might easily miss, such as ‘de quelle color est la robe?’ – French for ‘what colour is the dress?’

Depending on your viewpoint, the video either shows how far we’ve come, or how boring our lives are (especially the post-2010 examples!), but the foreign language ones in particular might leave you scratching your head. Here’s a breakdown of what some of the lesser-known searches represent:


If you’re too young to remember the turn of the last century, there were some serious concerns about the Millennium Bug or Y2K Problem. With many digital clocks only supporting two-digit years, people worried that reverting to the year 1900 would cause systems to malfunction. The most hysterical claim of the time was that planes would suddenly fall out of the sky when we entered 2000.


The question asked is Portuguese for ‘what is the most popular sport in the world?’. The graphics depict the 2002 FIFA World Cup held in Japan and South Korea, which was won by Portuguese-speaking Brazil.


This time we’re Googling in German. The Human Genome Project, a ground-breaking piece of research into DNA, was completed in 2003, with German universities playing a key role.


In a move that seemed little more than a piece of astro-bullying, Pluto was downgraded to a ‘dwarf planet’ by the International Astronomical Union in August 2006.


The Large Hadron Collider went live in September 2008. The collider is located on the border of France and Switzerland, which explains the choice of language here.


Many Mayan cultures believed the world would end, or significantly change, on December 21, 2012. People in Spanish-speaking countries like Mexico and Guatemala flocked to Google to look into these prophecies.


We’re now asked ‘what is a selfie?’ in Indonesian. The year before, it had been named Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year.

I will admit that the Chinese, Japanese and Arabic ones have stumped me. If you know what they represent, please comment!

John Murray

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