Today, Apple and Google are two of the most prominent and unmistakable brands on the planet. Founded in 1998 and 1976 respectively, these tech giants have gone on to change the face of the world as we know it, employing around 200,000 specialists together, coming from all four corners of the world.
However, the chosen brand names of Google and Apple aren’t exactly the first choices one would think of when setting up a multinational tech company. Regardless, these names are now written in the fabric of modern life, so let’s take a look at how Apple and Google got their names, with the hand of fate – and confused vocabulary – more than playing its part!
How did Google get its name?
The concept of Google’s search engine based on relevancy was developed by PhD students Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who both studied at Stanford University, California. Both Brin and Page nearly had a hand in giving the search engine one of the most bizarre names possible. As the system was designed to check backlinks to websites and individual landing pages to ascertain the importance of a site or webpage, the duo initially opted to name the search engine “BackRub”.
This brand name was eventually thrown out upon further debate and it was another brainstorming session with the pair’s university friend, Sean, who suggested an altogether different name which would have more obvious connotations about the search engine’s love of big data. The word “googolplex” was suggested, which is the mathematical name for 10 to the power of googol. A googol is the term used to reference 10 to the power of 100 – or one plus 100 zeros!
When the term googolplex was put forward, Larry reportedly stated that he preferred a more concise, punchier brand name but liked the general theme of googolplex as it gave an accurate nod to what they were attempting to do: index a number of websites and individual web pages on a scale never seen before. Larry Page instead recommended the smaller word googol but, as it transpired, the company took on its Google name thanks to an accidental grammar faux pas. When Brin went to register the domain name for the search engine, he incorrectly assumed that the word was spelt with “le” at the end rather than “ol”. After registering the wrong domain, it transpired that Page liked the alternate spelling and the rest, as they say, is history! In terms of consumer psychology, a different and enticing brand name can be just as interesting as a more familiar brand. Just like film franchises, according to Betway, slot machines and other video games use cheeky and outlandish descriptive words for their game titles. Just like Microgaming’s Cash Splash and Mega Moolah and Universal Pictures’ iconic Jurassic Park, businesses such as Google and Apple had the foresight to select unique brand names that are memorable and catch people’s attention.
Since the passing of Apple founder, Steve Jobs, in October 2011, many people have wondered just how and why the word Apple was selected to represent the brand which would upset the applecart of Silicon Valley – pardon the pun! Rumors abound that both Steve Jobs and co-founder Steve Wozniak were desperate for their brand to be ahead of Atari in the American phone book, while others reported that the three founding members had a desire for their business to appear more simple and welcoming than competitors that had taken to the marketplace at the same time, such as IBM and Cincom.
Steve Jobs told Walter Isaacson in the latter’s best-selling 2015 biography that one of the main influences behind the choice of apple as the brand name was his fruitarian diet and the fact that the word did not appear as “intimidating” as some of the other brands in Silicon Valley. Furthermore, Steve Wozniak’s 2007 iWoz book, outlining the story of Apple’s computer revolution – which turned 40 last year – delved into the way in which the trio agonized over their choice of brand name and Wozniak also voiced his concerns over the legality of Apple Computer given that The Beatles still operated their own music label, Apple Records.
Wozniak said: “Steve suggested a name – Apple Computer. The first comment out of my mouth was ‘What about Apple Records?’.”
Apple Records is still the Beatles’ very own record label today and despite the pair attempting to pluck a more technical-sounding alternative out of the air, neither Wozniak or Jobs could find anything more fitting than Apple. Unfortunately for Jobs and Wozniak, the latter’s fears about stepping on the toes of The Beatles were justified, as Apple Computer, Inc. was eventually taken to court by Apple Records in 1989 for violating trademarks.
Nevertheless, both the Apple and Google names have stood the test of time – and the courts! – underpinning the ground-breaking work of both sets of teams; blazing a trail for technology and connectivity in the 21st century.