Internet giant Google is celebrating its 20th birthday. The company was incorporated on September 4 1998, but has chosen — for reasons that cannot be found by searching the internet — to celebrate its birthday on September 27. Google’s founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, entered the competitive internet search market as university upstarts and ended up dominating it. They did this by inventing something called "page ranking", an algorithm which vastly improved the quality of results achieved when searching. As with most megacompanies, Google has its own story of lost corporate opportunity. Brin and Page offered to sell Google to Excite for $1m in 1999. Excite’s CEO, George Bell, turned them down, even when they sheepishly cut the price to $750,000. Five years later, Google’s listing would value the company at $23bn. Its market capitalisation is now in excess of $820bn.

The search engine has been relentlessly refined and expanded and can now quickly tell you the etymology of ...

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