Google celebrates 13th birthday

Google rolls out a special doodle for its 13th birthday – and what a wild 13 years it's been.
Google became a teenager today. The search engine celebrated turning 13 with a clay-style Google doodle.

Google turns 13 today. And search engine is celebrating its big day as any teenager would, with cake.

Tuesday's Google doodle shows a reveling company logo, complete with party hats and exclamation point, standing before a table full of candles and presents. The birthday banner combines two different aesthetics: a clay style that's reminiscent of a Wallace and Gromit short (a series that actually earned its own Google doodle in 2009), and the slightly faded colors of an antique photograph (further embellishing by the family-album corner catchers).

The image is actually even more appropriate than it seems. Sure, the birthday theme fits this special occasion, but its sophisticated style shows just how far Google doodles have come in 13 years.

Doodles have actually been a part of Google from the beginning. In 1998, right around when the company launched, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin wanted to visit Burning Man, the annual festival in the Nevada desert. But the website ran on a tiny crew back then. What if the servers crashed while they were away, Brin and Page worried – no one will be there to fix things. So, the pair tweaked Google's logo: "A stick figure drawing was placed behind the 2nd "o" in the word," says the company's official history. "Google and the revised logo was intended as a comical message to Google users that the founders were 'out of office.' "

The search engine didn't use doodles to celebrate its birthdays until 2002, when the company turned 4. (You can see that image and its other birthday logos in the video on the second page.) However, as its year-round doodles grew more elaborate – remember the Pac-Man and Jules Verne doodles? – its birthday celebrations remained very minimalist.

Even in 2009, the same year that brought the Popeye and H.G. Wells mystery doodles, Google rang in its 11th year by simply copy-and-pasting the L in its name to create Googlle. It's clever, sure. But it wasn't until last year that the birthday doodles finally started matching the craft and flair of Google's other special days.

If, dear reader, you're rolling your eyes at all this doodle talk, don't forget that Google considers these novelty logos to be a market-place advantage over its competitors. Earlier this year, the search engine started running online ads that said, "Love Doodles? Make Google your homepage and you'll never miss another one."

In fact, Google patented the idea. In March, the US patent office approved the company's "System and Method For Enticing Users To A Web Site." The application describes: "FIG. 9 is a diagram of examples 910-950 of special event logos according to implementations consistent with the present invention. In the example 910, a company logo is modified with a leprechaun's pot of gold for Saint Patrick's Day."

Google is not messing around here. And that's fine with us. If reader comments are any indication, you guys seem to love these Google doodles.

While we're on the topic, which doodle do you think was the best? The extensive Roger Hargreaves tribute? The bubbling Robert Bunsen lab? Maybe the interactive Les Paul guitar? Let us know in the comments.

For more on how technology intersects daily life, follow Chris on Twitter @venturenaut.

[Editor's note: The original post misstated the year of Google's 4th birthday. It was in 2002.]

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