10 weird and wonderful things you didn't know about Google

From Google's the Noogler hat to why the search engine hires 200 goats...
Written by Shelley Portet, Contributor

From Google's the Noogler hat to why the search engine hires 200 goats...

From search to social networking to email, Google is on a mission to index all of the world's information.

But how much do you know about the search giant?

To help with your next technology-themed pub quiz, silicon.com has drawn together a list of 10 things that might surprise you about Google.

1. Google started off as BackRub

Before Google, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin launched a search engine called BackRub.

Fortunately the name doesn't hark back to previously unknown career in massage therapy, but rather is a nod to the fact that the search engine aimed to rank web pages based on their backlinks.

BackRub was run on servers from Stanford University, where the pair studied, but was closed down after a year as it took up too much bandwidth.

The name Google was derived from the word googol - the name for the number one followed by 100 zeros. Whether the founders landed on the name Google as a purposeful play on the world googol or as an accidental spelling mistake depends on who you speak to.

New Google employees have to wear the Noogler hat in their first week

New Google employees have to wear the Noogler hat in their first weekPhoto: Google

2. Google has a chief culture officer

Google is often listed as one of the top employers to work for in the world, mainly due to the generous array of benefits available such as free haircuts, massages and gourmet meals provided every day, while Google employees, known as Googlers, are encouraged to spend 20 per cent of their work time on projects of their own choice.

Having a non-traditional workplace culture is also an important part of Google life - so important in fact that Google appointed a chief culture officer some years ago who works to make sure Google keeps to the values it had in its early days: a lack of hierarchy, for example, and an emphasis on collaboration.

3. New employees wear the Noogler hat

The first day at a new employer can be daunting wherever you work, but at Google it's that little bit more challenging - new starters' first week means being called a Noogler and wearing a rainbow hat with a propeller on the top and the word Noogler embroidered across it.

Luckily for the Nooglers they only have to wear the hat at their first TGIF (Thank God it's Friday) meeting.

4. Google's Easter eggs

Google has built a few Easter eggs into its search engine, which are periodically discovered by eager searchers.

Search for the word anagram, for instance, and Google will ask if you meant to search for 'nag a ram' instead.

Inputting the term 'do a barrel roll' into Google's homepage will see it do just that - flip around on your screen before returning the appropriate search results.

Similarly, when searching for the word recursion, Google asks if you meant recursion, thereby creating a recursive link. Clever eh?

5. The Google doodle started off as an out of office notification

The Google doodle has become a mainstay of Google's homepage with doodles to commemorate noteworthy and memorable anniversaries across the globe. However, the doodle's origins are far more humble.

In 1998, founders Page and Brin put the Burning Man festival logo behind the second 'o' in the Google logo to let employees know...

...they would be at the festival - a sort of out of office email notification.

Since then, the idea of using the Google doodle to highlight events and special days took off and the Google doodle has become a phenomenon in its own right.

The Pac-Man doodle created to celebrate the game's 30th birthday in March 2010 was the first playable doodle and got its own permanent home due its popularity.

6. Googlers can never be more than 100 feet away from food

Food is so important to employees at Google that founders Page and Brin instilled a rule that no Googler can be more than 100 feet away from food.

As a result there are 25 cafes at Google's Californian headquarters, the Mountain View Googleplex, and a total of 85 cafes at Google campuses across the globe.

Good food was highly valued even in the early days as Google hired its first chef, former cook for the Grateful Dead Charlie Ayers in 1999, after he won a cook-off judged by Google employees.

Yoshka was the first Google dog and joined in 1999

Yoshka was the first Google dog and joined in 1999Photo: Google

7. Yoshka was Google's first dog

The first Google dog was a Leonberger called Yoshka who joined Google in 1999 with his owner Urs Hoelzle, senior vice president of operations.

Apparently Yoshka enjoys the daily summer barbecues and now takes the lift to his third floor office since he injured his right leg.

Google is a dog-friendly work place and any employee is allowed to bring their canine friend in as long as they adhere to the Google dog policy, which includes a zero tolerance policy towards aggressive behaviour.

8. Google hires goats

OK, so the goats might not do any actual programming, but Google hires 200 goats to come down to Mountain View for some grounds maintenance.

A herder brings the goats to the Googleplex for around a week in order to eat the grass and fertilise the grounds.

According to Google, the goats cost about the same as mowing the grounds and are cuter to watch than lawn mowers. Solid business reasoning, then.

9. Google loves a prank

Over the years Google has developed a love of April Fools, starting with the announcement of MentalPlex in 2000.

The MentalPlex service promised to give users search results by reading their minds as they stared at a spiralling animation.

Since then, April Fool's jokes have included a dating service called Google Romance and Virgle, a project supposedly launched with Richard Branson to send people to Mars.

Google even fabricated a questionnaire for those who wanted to put themselves forward as a Virgle pioneer.

10. Google's first tweet

The first ever post Google made on Twitter in 2009 was: I'm 01100110 01100101 01100101 01101100 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01101100 01110101 01100011 01101011 01111001 00001010.

For those who don't speak binary, this translates to a favoured phrase at Google - "I'm feeling lucky" - the option that appears next to every Google search box.

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