Larry Page and Sergey Brin
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"Basically, our goal is to organize the world's information and to make it universally accessible and useful."
"To me, this is about preserving history and making it available to everyone"
Co-founders of Google
Founded: September 1998
Like all good genius start-up stories, Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google Inc. in a friend's garage in Menlo Park, Calif. Since its incorporation on September 4, 1998, the company has grown to nearly 20,000 full-time employees worldwide, and with a steady stream of new product developments, acquisitions, and partnerships, has extended its reach far beyond its modest beginnings as a web search engine. Perhaps even more impressive is Google's image as the pinnacle of cool, with a reputation for being hip, innovative and wildly successful--all without compromising its "Don't be evil" philosophy.
Larry Page's interest in technology began when his father, the late Carl Page--Michigan State professor and pioneer in the fields of computer science and artificial intelligence--gave him a computer at the age of six. Page graduated with honors from the University of Michigan with a bachelor's degree in engineering and concentration in computer engineering. He achieved his undergraduate claim to fame by building an inkjet printer out of Lego blocks.
Page worked for a few years in the technology industry before deciding, at the age of 24, to pursue a Ph.D. in computer science at Stanford University. It was there, as a prospective student, that he met Sergey Brin, who was assigned to show him around the campus. Brin, originally from Moscow, moved to the U.S. with his family when he was 6 years old. He received his bachelor's degree in mathematics and computer science, with honors, from the University of Maryland, where his father taught mathematics. At Stanford, he was studying ways to extract patterns and relationships from large amounts of data.
Google's own website implies that the two disagreed "about most everything" during this first meeting.
But their friendship was given the chance to blossom in 1996, when Brin joined Page in his BackRub research project, exploring backlinks--links on other websites that refer back to a given webpage--as a way to measure the relative importance of a particular site. The pair then developed the PageRank algorithm (named after Page), hypothesizing that using this tool, they could produce better results than existing search engines, which returned rankings based on the number of times a search term appeared.
They tested the BackRub search engine later that year on Stanford's servers. Without a web developer, they kept the search page simple, but were challenged to find enough computing power to handle queries as the search engine become increasingly popular.
"At Stanford we'd stand on the loading dock and try to snag computers as they came in," Page said in an interview with Technology Review in 2000. "We would see who got 20 computers and ask them if they could spare one."
Page and Brin eventually renamed the search engine Google, as a play on the word "googol," a mathematical term represented by the numeral one followed by 100 zeros--a reflection of their mission to organize the seemingly infinite amount of information on the internet.
Reluctant to leave their studies, the duo ran the operation out of their dorm rooms. But by mid-1998, Google was getting 10,000 searches a day; so, finally convinced, they maxed out $15,000 worth of credit cards to purchase a terabyte of disk space and drafted a business plan.
Things have gone well since then. In August 2004, Google went public with an IPO that raised $1.67 billion, and in typical Google fashion, became the first and only company to allocate its stocks using computers rather than Wall Street bankers. For the quarter ending June 30, 2008, the company reported revenues of $5.37 billion, an increase of 39 percent compared to the second quarter of 2007.
The famous Googleplex headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., is also something to boast about. Known for its relaxed atmosphere and envy-inducing employee perks like subsidized massages, on-site stylists, and three free gourmet meals a day, the campus currently spans 2 million square feet of office space, and a recent acquisition will soon add another 1 million square feet.
Google's "Milestones" page reads more like a novel than a series of highlights, but there's still more to come. In a 2005 interview with Financial Times, Brin stated, "There's a lot of room for improvement, there's no inherent ceiling we're hitting up on." And so far, that's been the case, from the $1.65 billion purchase of YouTube down to the continued development of the ubiquitously popular GoogleMaps and Picasa photo applications.
To say that Google has had a tremendous impact on the internet is the definition of understatement. After all, the company has already found its way into the vernacular--as a verb, no less. In 2006, the word "google" was added to the Merriam Webster Dictionary as, "to use the Google search engine to obtain information on the World Wide Web."
Page and Brin are both on leave from Stanford, but success has kept them busy. They are still involved in daily operations at Google as president of products and president of technology, respectively.