SAN FRANCISCO -- Sometimes it's hard to tell whether Google Inc. is operating an online search engine or a moneymaking machine.
The seven-year-old company keeps winning new fans, creating a franchise that investors briefly valued at more than $100 billion yesterday when Google's shares reached a new high of $346.43 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.
Even after a slight retreat, Google's market value at the end of trading was $98 billion, or nearly $20 billion more than Hewlett Packard Co. -- a Silicon Valley pioneer founded 20 years ago.
''More and more people who haven't 'Googled' before are Googling now," said Martin Pyykkonen, one of the many Internet industry analysts marveling at Google's immersion in the popular culture.
As more people use Google, the company stands to make more money from the ads that it displays along its own search engine results. Google gets paid every time someone clicks on one of those ads -- and there's been a whole lot of clicking going on.
The rapid runup in Google's stock has evoked memories of Wall Street's early love affair with Microsoft Corp., whose shares had surged to a fivefold gain 14 months after its March 1986 IPO.