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Sergey Brin and Larry Page  

Sergey Brin and Larry Page invented Google: the technology, the company, the verb.

How did their search business, relatively late to the game, come to rule the Web?

The answer might be found in the personalities of the Google founders. Brin and Page met in grad school at Stanford in the mid-’90s, and in 1996 started working on a search technology based on a new idea: that relevant results come from context. Their technology analyzed the number of times a given website was linked to by other sites — assuming that the more links, the more relevant the site — and ranked sites accordingly. In 1998, they opened Google in a garage-office in Menlo Park. In 1999 their software left beta and started its steady rise to web domination.

But technology alone doesn't account for Google's breakaway success. In fact, Google's approach to site design and advertising may have been more radical than the technology itself: In an era when search engines were super-saturated with sponsor messages, Google broke the mold with their famously friendly and simple interface. Paid links were clearly identfied; no pop-windows or banner ads were used; the homepage offered little more than their whimsical logo and a single search box. Customers loved it.

Brin and Page's innovation-friendly office culture (beyond the famous free food, there's the company's "20 Percent Time," which encourages engineers to spend a fifth of their time pursuing whatever projects ignite their interest) has created fertile ground for spectacular successes beyond search, including AdSense/AdWords, Google News, Google Maps, Google Earth, and Gmail. The company's belief in clean design and ethical ad sales, and its corporate philosophy — often simply stated as "Don't be evil" — continue to set the company apart.

In 2004, Brin and Page launched the company's philanthropic arm, Google.org, focused on solving worldwide problems relating to poverty, energy and the environment. Google.org Director Larry Brilliant met Brin and Page through TED; his new position was announced at TED2006, just before he accepted his TED Prize.

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