Google Goes Against the

By David F. Carr  |  Posted 2007-03-15 Print this article Print

Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page reinvented search, e-mail and mapping, shattering earnings estimates and getting themselves very, very rich.


Part of what impresses Cheriton about Page and Brin is their willingness to question conventional wisdom and trust their own judgment, even when it means ignoring the advice of their elders.

For example, he initially disapproved of their teaching a course in search technology at Stanford, fearing they would give too much away. But one result of that course was that they got other students excited about the technology and wound up hiring many of the school's most talented computer scientists. That was the beginning of a pattern of seeking out excellence in all of Google's hires.

Even when the venture capitalists were pressuring them to hire a more experienced CEO to replace Page, who initially held that position, the founders refused to buckle under until they found the right person, Cheriton said. "They were playing the same game of asking, 'What can this person bring to the table that we can't already do?'"

In terms of technology, Brin and Page not only innovated with PageRank but also led the company to create an economical distributed system, based on thousands of servers built from commodity PC hardware, to support the gathering, storage and analysis of Web content on a huge scale, Cheriton said. If they hadn't mastered that early on, he said, the cost of operating the search engine likely would have spiraled out of control.

Both Page and Brin grew up in households where math, science, technology and academic excellence were cherished. Page was the son of a computer science professor and a database consultant, while Brin's mother worked at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and his father was a math professor.

Page is a born tinkerer. His official biography says that while he was an undergraduate in engineering at the University of Michigan, he built an inkjet printer out of Lego blocks. When Google was establishing its first production data center, Page helped design its original hand-built computer racks from tightly packed components mounted on corkboard.

Brin, a native of Moscow, earned his undergraduate degree with honors in mathematics and computer science from the University of Maryland at College Park and is currently on leave from the doctorate program at Stanford, where he received his master's degree. He has published more than a dozen scientific papers, including those he co-authored with Larry Page about applying data mining principles to the Web.

Page now holds the title of president of products; Brin is president of technology. While letting Schmidt be Google's front man, they still wield enormous influence over the way the company operates.

Both men are still in their early 30s and looking to continue to work on achieving Google's mission "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."

In the beginning, they thought they might be able to create a nice little company with a couple of hundred employees, Page said at last year's Google Press Day. But then they realized that "the area we were in, search, was too important to the world for a small company to really succeed in it. To fulfill that mission, we had to grow. Now we really are accomplishing a lot by making information more accessible."

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David F. Carr David F. Carr is the Technology Editor for Baseline Magazine, a Ziff Davis publication focused on information technology and its management, with an emphasis on measurable, bottom-line results. He wrote two of Baseline's cover stories focused on the role of technology in disaster recovery, one focused on the response to the tsunami in Indonesia and another on the City of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.David has been the author or co-author of many Baseline Case Dissections on corporate technology successes and failures (such as the role of Kmart's inept supply chain implementation in its decline versus Wal-Mart or the successful use of technology to create new market opportunities for office furniture maker Herman Miller). He has also written about the FAA's halting attempts to modernize air traffic control, and in 2003 he traveled to Sierra Leone and Liberia to report on the role of technology in United Nations peacekeeping.David joined Baseline prior to the launch of the magazine in 2001 and helped define popular elements of the magazine such as Gotcha!, which offers cautionary tales about technology pitfalls and how to avoid them.

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