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Google celebrates its 15th birthday

Google is 15 years old today Photo: Ole Spata/DPA/Press Association Images

The Internet giant Google is celebrating its 15th birthday today.

The firm was founded on 4 September 1998 by university friends Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

It was originally called BackRub, but they later settled on the name that has become so familiar to Internet browsers that it is used as a verb in its own right - "to Google".

Google was initially based in a garage, but now has more than 70 offices in more than 40 locations, including London, with its headquarters in California.

Google celebrated its 14th birthday with a cake on its search engine home page Credit: Google

The company, which has become known for marking anniversaries of all sorts on its home page, has remained tight-lipped about whether users can expect any birthday surprises.

For its 14th birthday, an animated birthday cake with 14 candles was gradually diminished slice-by-slice to reveal the Google logo.

Here is a look back at some landmarks in the company's history:

1998 - Google is incorporated

Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin Credit: PA

The firm was incorporated on 4 September 1998 by co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who had met at Stanford University in California three years prior.

Later the same year, the pair cash their first cheque for $100,000 from an investor, and hired their first employee.

In December, PC Magazine noted that Google has an "uncanny knack for returning extremely relevant results".

2000 - Google learns new languages

In May, the first 10 language versions of the search engine were launched: French, German, Italian, Swedish, Finnish, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Norwegian and Danish.

Chinese, Japanese and Korean were added in September.

Today it owns some 160 domain names for each of the countries or regions where the search engine is localised.

2001 - Google Image search launched

Users were given the ability to search the Internet for images, with an initial offering of a quarter of a billion pictures.

This was followed the next year by the launch of Google News, which browsed some 4,000 news sources.

2005 - Google on the map

Google Map Credit: Google Map

Google Maps was launched in February, allowing users to search addresses anywhere in the world. Two months later, satellite views and directions were added to the service.

By this time, the company had indexed ore than four billion web pages and one billion images.

2006 - Google enters the dictionary

The Oxford English Dictionary added the word 'Google' to its annals, noting the fact that it had entered common usage as a verb - "to Google".

Google also announced its acquisition of YouTube in October.

2007 - Google Earth goes intergalactic

Google Earth - which allows users to view the Earth's surface via satellites - expanded to include the Sky, with layers for constellation information and virtual tours of galaxies.

It was the start of an ongoing plight to expand the horizons of Google Earth, resulting in attempts to map coral reefs, mountain tops and the Amazon.

The service was also widely used to respond to humanitarian crises by this point.

2008 - Street View launched

People around the world start spotting the Google car, which captures the imagery for Street View Credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Google launched its Street View service allowing users to 'zoom in' on a satellite map and view the surroundings from street level.

Initially, the entire route of the 2008 Tour de France was offered.

2010 - Self-driving car

Google's self-driving car Credit: REUTERS/Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles/Handout

Google began experimenting with its self-driving car, notching up more than 140,000 miles.

The cars use video cameras, radar sensors and a laser range finder to “see” other traffic, as well as detailed maps to navigate the road ahead.

Google said it hoped the technology could help reduce the number of deaths on the roads.

2012 - Google Glass

Google founder Sergey Brin poses with Google Glass Credit: Christoph Dernbach/DPA/Press Association Images

In June, the company officially unveiled Google Glass.

Rumours had been circulating for some months about the reality glasses that overlay digital information onto the user's view of the real world. The glasses also allow users to take pictures and record video.

Some 8,000 people in the US were picked by Google to have the chance to test the company's new product.