Brin, Page Show No Signs of Slowing Down
Google's founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page made Ziff Davis Media's Top 100 Most Influential People in IT list for inventing technologies that rewrote expectations for Internet search engines and then building outward to establish a growing suite of complementary applications that reinvented other categories, including e-mail and mapping.
In the process, they've built Google into one of the industry's most powerful companies and made themselves rich in the process. They ranked 12th and 13th, respectively, on Forbes magazine's most recent list of the 400 Richest Americans, both with a net worth of more than $14 billion.
The Google search engine began as a research project they started while both were doctoral students at Stanford University. While studying the "link structure" of the Web, Page came up with the PageRank algorithm for using the number of links pointing to a given page as a measure of its importance, which helped them make Google search results more relevant.
Brin leant his expertise in data mining, and together they built a distributed computing infrastructure to support indexing millions of Web pages. Originally, they tried to license their software to an established Web operation such as Yahoo but got no takers. So they founded Google in 1998.
Together with CEO Eric Schmidt , who joined in 2001, Brin and Page established a profitable business model built around keyword advertising. Since going public in 2004, Google has exceeded analyst estimates for its financial performance in all but one quarter, and profits topped $1 billion in the last quarter of 2006.
David Vise, The Washington Post writer and co-author of the book "The Google Story," said the company has succeeded not just on the strength of technology but because of its management style. "Google has remained relentlessly focused on the end user," Vise said, meaning that Google is more focused on the quality of its search results than on the volume of the advertising that accompanies them.
The company is also driven by quantitative measurement, Vise said. "People can't go into a room with Sergey Brin and Larry Page and make a persuasive argument, most of the time, without having data to back it up. They don't want opinion; they want data."
At the same time, Google's leaders aren't afraid to experiment, which is why they've given "beta" a whole new meaning, Vise said. "This is a constant struggle between Larry Page and the engineers," he said, with Page pushing to get applications in front of users sooner rather than later, even if they're imperfect, so that Google can start gathering user feedback on how to make them better.
While CEO Schmidt deserves a lot of credit for Google's success, Stanford professor David Cheriton said, "I think Larry and Sergey did an incredible job of building the company to the point where Eric came in." Cheriton, who heads a distributed systems research group at Stanford, was an early investor in Google who also took stock in exchange for serving as a business and technical adviser to the company.
Next Page: Google goes against the grain.