Google began in January 1996 as a research project by Larry Page and Sergey Brin when they were both PhD students at Stanford University in California.
While conventional search engines ranked results by counting how many times the search terms appeared on the page, the two theorized about a better system that analyzed the relationships between websites. They called this new technology PageRank, where a website’s relevance was determined by the number of pages, and the importance of those pages, that linked back to the original site.
A small search engine called “RankDex” from IDD Information Services designed by Robin Li was, since 1996, already exploring a similar strategy for site-scoring and page ranking. The technology in RankDex would be patented and used later when Li founded Baidu in China.
Google screenshots from the past
Screenshot taken from The Internet Wayback Machine