My hypothesis on the originality of the name “Google”

“Google”, every human being knows this name and for what it stands for – except for some Kuwaitis who mistake it for the internet. “Googol” on the other hand is a fairly known word, probably only professors,  nerds, and few geeks know it. Those two words are close in spelling that one can easily misspell one of them. In fact, the Internet approves this possibility and suggests that one should believe Google Incorporation’s  claim:

“Google” is a misspelling of the word “googol”.

However, I had to investigate; I ended up with my own unique  hypothesis.

Shall we start?

Professor Edward Kasner, the one who named 10^100 “googol” and 10^googol  “googolplex”, had lived from 1878 to 1955. And based on the fact that Google Inc was founded later in 1998, it was absolutely possible that they misspelled the word. However, … has anyone read Douglas Adam’s sci-fi novel: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?

The sci-fi story

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a master piece, a multimillion international best seller novel by Douglas Adams. The novel probed all science topics known to mankind at the time of writing, including computers. Douglas had his own way of including computers in his story, he named them as well. One of the mentioned computer names is Googleplex Star Thinker (Chapter 25, 1st dialog, 6th exchange counting from 0). Douglas, through out the first novel of the “trilogy” of five books, showed how much he liked manipulating scientific facts and names. I can confidently say, that the word “Googleplex” was  intentionally written as is. … The thing is, his novels were written from 1979 to 1992. Google Inc, just to remind you, was founded in 1998.

See where this is going?

Google's HQ: Googleplex

I believe “Google” was not misspelled, it was written this way  intentionally. Because the novel was a successful sci-fi story, many nerds and geeks have read it. The ones who’ve chosen the name “Google” probably have read it as well. My guess is that Douglas’ wordplay of “Googol” was to the reader’s liking that the name was imprinted on his mind. And seeing that “Google” as a single word was an original option, they took it! Though, apparently, the name “Googleplex” was also dearly liked as a company name. Google Inc took a step forward and named their head quarters Googleplex. Coincidence? I strongly think not.

Do you see the contradiction?

Okay, you might not have liked how I got that novel in this and think this is stupid, so let’s get back to history.

What we call today “Google” used to be called “BackRub”. It was later renamed to Google. Now, don’t you think people would spend time on choosing the right name to rename a project like that? In fact, while `echo regoogleing | sed s/google/search/g` this topic, I found two related essays from Stanford (where Google was created). What makes them interesting is that they tell different stories!

“But we realized BackRub wasn’t the world’s greatest name,” Page said. Instead, he and Brin looked through Web sites and URLs before finally stumbling across a list of very large numbers. The word “google” was at the top.

A friend later pointed out, however, that the number is actually spelled “googol.” But the misspelling had two o’s and ended with ‘le’ so they decided to stick with it, Page said. Plus, the Google domain name was still available.

The Stanford Daily

And …

Sean and Larry were in their office, using the whiteboard, trying to think up a good name – something that related to the indexing of an immense amount of data. Sean verbally suggested the word “googolplex,” and Larry responded verbally with the shortened form, “googol” (both words refer to specific large numbers). Sean was seated at his computer terminal, so he executed a search of the Internet domain name registry database to see if the newly suggested name was still available for registration and use. Sean is not an infallible speller, and he made the mistake of searching for the name spelled as “,” which he found to be available.

Stanford Computer Graphics Library

The first resource tells that they stumbled across a list of very large numbers and from which they got the name “Google”. Any list could have some typos, it’s okay. However, the second resource tells that they were verbally discussing the name, then they decided. “Google” in that story was a person’s spelling mistake rather than a typo! You see the contradiction, don’t you?

Shall I conclude?

With that, I can say that “Google” originality is a mystery since neither of the founders cleared anything. To me, none of the stories and the hypotheses I read made sense. That’s why I made my own hypothesis which actually makes sense! Because of the ambiguity of the originality and the fact that there’s no clear quote of the founders, my hypothesis is valid.

“Google” was derived from Douglas’s “Googleplex” which was based on Prof. Edward’s “Googolplex”. Simple.

Because of this ambiguity, I can’t tell whether Google is guilty in this case or not. Though, they might be since Douglas might not had the chance to speak his mind to Google Inc due to his sudden death in 2001.

If you’re expecting a final answer, all I can reply with is what Deep Thought had told us: forty-two.


~ by AnxiousNut on August 17, 2011.

5 Responses to “My hypothesis on the originality of the name “Google””

  1. This made me snicker for a long time.

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  5. Totally agree. I am extremely late in reading Douglas Adams book, I admit, but it is virtually impossible not to make this connection, especially because of the way it is spelled in the book. It also makes sense that the company preferred to come up with a phony story just to avoid legal issues.

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