Julie Tucker
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Larry Page: The man behind Google

The man behind the most popular search engine on the planet is American entrepreneur and computer scientist, Larry Page. The 46-year-old is worth an estimated $55.8 billion, making him the world’s ninth richest person.

He co-founded Google with Russian-born computer scientist Sergey Brin in 1998. The duo went on to invent PageRank (Google’s best-known search ranking algorithm), for which they received the Marconi Prize in 2004.

Google won a massive 87.5% share of the UK search engine market in 2019. It handles more than 3.5 billion searches per day, equating to around 40,000 queries every second, and has more than 88,000 full-time employees worldwide.

Forbes Magazine ranked Page tenth in its list of the world’s most powerful people and the fifth richest person in technology, while he was America’s seventh wealthiest person in 2019. Destined to become an internet entrepreneur from the outset, he has described how he grew up surrounded by computers and science, and technology magazines.

Early years
Born in March 1973 in Michigan, Page was a studious child, who spent a lot of time reading books. His father, Carl, had two bachelor’s degrees in engineering studies and was the University of Michigan’s first computer science graduate in 1960. His mother, Gloria, became a computer programming instructor at Michigan State University.

It was no surprise that the family home fostered Page’s early interest in tech and by the time he was six, he was playing on first-generation personal computers at home, later becoming the first student at his elementary school to do his homework on a word processor.

He completed his Bachelor of Science in computer engineering with honours at the University of Michigan, where he created an inkjet printer from Lego bricks. Not only did he build the casing, he also created the electronics and mechanics to power the printer.

Completing his Master of Science degree in computer science at Stanford University, where much of his research focused on how web pages could link to another page, he was helped in his research by Moscow-born Brin, a fellow PhD student, who had moved to the US with his family in October 1979, when he was six.

BackRub project
Together, they developed a project called “BackRub” and wrote a research paper, The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine, which became one of the most downloaded scientific documents in the history of the internet.

Page had been looking for a way to count and qualify every backlink on the Web to make it more useful. At the time, there were an estimated 10 million documents out there. His research, which went well beyond the usual boundaries of a student project, included building a crawler. Brin was fascinated by the complex BackRub project and joined Page to complete his thesis.

They developed the PageRank algorithm and converted the backlink data that their BackRub web crawler collected into a rank of importance, soon realising they could build a better search engine than those around at the time.

Their dormitory became a laboratory and they began to test their new and technically-advanced search engine on fellow students. Page’s HTML programming skills created a simple search page, while they used spare computer parts to build the complex technology to cope with multiple searches.

Users at the university loved the search engine, so Page and Brin added more servers to process the many queries. They launched their first public version of BackRub for internet users in August 1996.

Google’s launch
On 4th September 1998, Page and Brin officially launched Google Inc from their first office – it was actually a converted garage in Menlo Park in California and was pretty makeshift. Like many start-ups, they didn’t have a fortune to spend on premises. Page was Google Inc’s CEO and Brin was company president.

In 2000, the company moved to its new offices at Mountain View, which is Google’s HQ today. Page adopted an unusual management style that helped the business to grow. He didn’t believe in delegating and did all he could personally to expand the company. He didn’t have a bureaucratic approach and encouraged maximum collaboration between the employees working on each project.

He felt ideas were more important than a person’s age or rank and urged anyone who had a good idea to voice it, stressing that they deserved co-operation and respect. Page believed every employee deserved an explanation if they were stopped from doing something they believed in. Just saying “no” was never an option and his ethos was to help them find a better way of working.

Alphabet Inc
Page and Brin founded the American multinational company, Alphabet Inc, after a corporate restructuring of Google. It became Google’s parent company, with Page as CEO and Brin as president.

Alphabet’s large portfolio spans numerous sectors including technology, life sciences, investment capital and research. Page described it as a “collection of companies”, with the largest being Google. Alphabet’s net income in 2018 was $30.74 billion.

Brin and Page stepped down as president and CEO respectively at the beginning of December 2019, although they remain Alphabet’s controlling shareholders. Today, Google has 77 offices at various locations spanning 39 countries, including the United States, Canada, the UK, much of Europe, Australia and Brazil.

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Image © JStone / Shutterstock.com

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