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 was already exploring a similar strategy.
Page and Brin originally nicknamed their new search engine "BackRub", because the system checked backlinks to estimate the importance of a site. Eventually, they changed the name to Google, originating from a misspelling of the word "googol", the number one followed by one hundred zeros, which was meant to signify the amount of information the search engine was to handle. Originally, Google ran under the Stanford University website, with the domain .stanford.edu. The domain Google.com was registered on September 15, 1997, and the company was incorporated on September 4, 1998, at a friend's garage in Menlo Park, California.