Absolutley fascinating story over at wired.com on
the birth of google
It began with an argument. When he first met Larry Page in the summer
of 1995, Sergey Brin was a second-year grad student in the computer science department
at Stanford University. Gregarious by nature, Brin had volunteered as a guide of sorts
for potential first-years – students who had been admitted, but were still deciding
whether to attend. His duties included showing recruits the campus and leading a tour
of nearby San Francisco. Page, an engineering major from the University of Michigan,
ended up in Brin’s group.
It was hardly love at first sight. Walking up and down the city’s hills that day,
the two clashed incessantly, debating, among other things, the value of various approaches
to urban planning. “Sergey is pretty social; he likes meeting people,” Page recalls,
contrasting that quality with his own reticence. “I thought he was pretty obnoxious.
He had really strong opinions about things, and I guess I did, too.”
“We both found each other obnoxious,” Brin counters when I tell him of Page’s response.
“But we say it a little bit jokingly. Obviously we spent a lot of time talking to
each other, so there was something there. We had a kind of bantering thing going.”
Page and Brin may have clashed, but they were clearly drawn together – two swords
sharpening one another.
When Page showed up at Stanford a few months later, he selected human-computer interaction
pioneer Terry Winograd as his adviser. Soon thereafter he began searching for a topic
for his doctoral thesis. It was an important decision. As Page had learned from his
father, a computer science professor at Michigan State, a dissertation can frame one’s
entire academic career. He kicked around 10 or so intriguing ideas, but found himself
attracted to the burgeoning World Wide Web.
Page didn’t start out looking for a better way to search the Web. Despite the fact
that Stanford alumni were getting rich founding Internet companies, Page found the
Web interesting primarily for its mathematical characteristics. Each computer was
a node, and each link on a Web page was a connection between nodes – a classic graph
structure. “Computer scientists love graphs,” Page tells me. The World Wide Web, Page
theorized, may have been the largest graph ever created, and it was growing at a breakneck
pace. Many useful insights lurked in its vertices, awaiting discovery by inquiring
graduate students. Winograd agreed, and Page set about pondering the link structure
of the Web.