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Entrepreneurs Larry Page and Sergey Brin: Founding Google

written by: Mary White•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 5/18/2011

What prompted Larry Page and Sergey Brin to launch an Internet company like Google, what were their entrepreneurial approaches, what difficulties did they face and what is the current state of the company? Find it all here.

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    The Beginnings

    search engine Larry Page had the world of computers all around him when he was born. His father was a computer science professor and his mother taught computer programming. So Larry’s affinity for computers was bound to start early. When he was seven years old he turned in an assignment completed on a word processor. Larry Page earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering from Michigan University and a Masters degree from Stanford University. He was studying for a doctorate at Stanford when he co-founded Google along with Sergey Brin.

    Sergey Brin is of Jewish origin just like Larry Page is, and was originally a native of Russia. His parents migrated to America in 1979, when Sergey was 7 years old, and Sergey found it quite difficult to adjust to the language and new customs. His interest in math was encouraged by his parents and he completed his Bachelors Degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from the University of Maryland.

    In the 1990s, both Larry Page and Sergey Brin went to Stanford for their doctoral programs. They did not become instant friends and were actually quite antagonistic towards each other, arguing on almost anything. Page found Brin ‘obnoxious’, because of the strong opinions he had on almost anything. In spite of that, he appreciated the talks that he had with Sergey for the keen mind that he exhibited.

    Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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    The Evolution of Google

    Google may never have come into existence if Larry Page’s affinity for mathematics had not attracted him towards doing his doctoral thesis on the World Wide Web. His fascination for the web turned around the fact that each web page had a link with another one or more and he wanted to study the link structure of the web and the graphic interpretation that it brought to mind. His keen mind was bothered by the fact that while most web pages had links forward which could easily be followed further, there was no way of knowing the backward links to each page. Each link was considered a citation just as in academic and research papers, and this idea of citation was what led to the development of the World Wide Web.

    So essentially what Larry Page was looking at was reversing the engineering and looking at back links. To search for back links, Larry developed a search engine to search backwards and list all the links to a web page. He called this program BackRub and soon found that the resources required were far too complex for a student project.

    Larry Page realized that it was not just the number of links that governed how important a page was, but the quality of the link pages. This was the same as in academic and research papers where the importance of the original citation determined whether the present research had any value. The complexity of the task and the mathematics involved drew Sergey Brin into the development of this link search engine as his own fascination for math had kept him jumping form project to project without settling on any one for his own doctoral thesis

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    The Firming Up of Google

    So Larry Page and Sergey Brin came together to create a ranking system that rewarded good links and penalized the irrelevant ones. They created an algorithm which they called Page Rank that took into account the number of links into a site and also the number of links that each of these links had by themselves. With this ranking, the popular sites with lots of forward and backward links came to the top of the list, whereas the rest followed in sequential order. It was then that they realized that this link search engine of theirs was able to get an overall ranking of pages. This seemed to them a far better way of searching for items on the Web, than the existing search engines which looked for text and key words and quite often gave irrelevant results.

    Larry Page and Sergey Brin realized that their search engine would grow with the web as it developed. So they developed it as a search engine different from BackRub which only looked for links. While looking for a new name for their search engine they decided on ‘googol’ which is the numeral one followed by a hundred zeroes. They found that was already taken and then decided on Google which was a name still available. The search engine was originally used only by Stanford students and had been developed by borrowing computers or parts of computers and utilizing almost Stanford University’s entire broadband network.

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    The Company Google

    Larry Page and Sergey Brin were not too keen on starting a new company and would have both preferred to complete their doctoral dissertations at the university. Their advisor however suggested to them that they give it a try, reminding them that they could always come back to becoming students if things did not work out. Taking his advice, they decided to try. They started Google in a garage belonging to one of their acquaintances It is now one of the biggest companies in the world, a company that even the greats in the business like Microsoft and Yahoo are wary of.

    Image Credit: (mmagallan)


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