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How Google Changed the World

Meghna Chhabria
12th Jul 2012
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Brin and Page

When I started doing my research for this article, the first thing I did, instinctively, was Google Google. Only about 15 seconds later did I realize what I had just done. I felt a little stupid, was a little amused, but mostly, I was Wowed by the sheer power of this Internet mammoth. Well, could anything stop me from finding out more?

Larry Page's (Co-founder & CEO, Google Inc.) journey with Computers started early. He was born to parents who were both Professors of Computer Science at Michigan State University. During an interview, Page recalled his childhood, noting that his house "was usually a mess, with computers and Science magazines all over the place" and that he was 6 when he started to play with "stuff that was lying around". At 22, in 1995, Larry Page and Sergey Brin met at Stanford. Page was considering the school and Sergey, 21, was assigned to show him around. As a Ph.D. student, Page had three projects he wanted to work on. Recalls Page, "Thank goodness my advisor said, 'Why don’t you work on the web for a while'." In 1996 Larry and Sergey, both Stanford computer science grad students, began collaborating on a search engine called BackRub. BackRub operated on Stanford servers for more than a year—eventually taking up too much bandwidth to suit the university. In 1997, Larry and Sergey decided that the BackRub search engine needed a new name. After some brainstorming, they go with Google—a play on the word “googol,” a mathematical term for the number represented by the numeral 1 followed by 100 zeros. The use of the term reflects their mission to organize a seemingly infinite amount of information on the web.

Says Larry Page in a Commencement Address at the University of Michigan in 2009:

I have a story about following dreams. Or maybe more accurately, it’s a story about finding a path to make those dreams real.
You know what it’s like to wake up in the middle of the night with a vivid dream? And you know how, if you don’t have a pencil and pad by the bed to write it down, it will be completely gone the next morning?
Well, I had one of those dreams when I was 23. When I suddenly woke up, I was thinking: what if we could download the whole web, and just keep the links and… I grabbed a pen and started writing! Sometimes it is important to wake up and stop dreaming. I spent the middle of that night scribbling out the details and convincing myself it would work. Soon after, I told my advisor, Terry Winograd, it would take a couple of weeks to download the web – he nodded knowingly, fully aware it would take much longer but wise enough to not tell me. The optimism of youth is often underrated! Amazingly, I had no thought of building a search engine. The idea wasn’t even on the radar. But, much later we happened upon a better way of ranking and we made a really great search engine, and Google was born. When a really great dream shows up, grab it!

How's that for inspiring?

Google products

After raising $1 million from family, friends and other investors, the pair launched the company in 1998. Google has since become the world's most popular search engine, receiving billions of queries each day. Brin and Page have never compromised their integrity and vision and the result is a company that went public in 2004 at a price of $85 a share and now trades over $560 a share. Though they are millionaires several times over, the founders have remained personally involved in nearly every aspect of the business. Page continues to share responsibility for Google's day-to-day operations with Sergey Brin and Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt. From their constant user-centric approach, high focus on innovation, to their extremely employee-friendly nature, it's hard to find an area that Google has gotten wrong. As John Batelle aptly puts it, "The only thing Google has failed to do, so far, is fail."

 

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