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Brin, Sergey

BRIN, SERGEY

BRIN, SERGEY (1973– ), U.S. co-founder of Google, the most popular search engine in the world. The son of a mathematician-economist, Brin, who was born in Moscow, left the Soviet Union with his family in 1979. He followed in his father's footsteps, earning a degree in computer science and math at the University of Maryland in 1993, and began graduate studies at Stanford University that fall. He met Larry Page in 1995 when Page, son of a highly regarded computer science professor at Michigan State University, attended an orientation for new students.

According to industry lore, Brin and Page argued often, though the sparring soon ended when they began developing a new kind of Internet search engine from their college dormitory. They called their program BackRub for its ability to analyze "back links," the pointers from one Web site to another. They developed the theory that a search engine based on a mathematical analysis of the relationships between Web sites would produce better results than the basic techniques then in use. BackRub allowed the search engine to list results according to the popularity of the pages, after Brin and Page realized that more times than not the most popular result would also be the most useful. They worked on BackRub until mid-1998, and then sought to sell licenses to the technology. Their immediate goal was to move out of the dormitory and pay off the credit card debt they had amassed. Andy Bechtolsheim, a cofounder of Sun Microsystems, was immediately enthusiastic about the technology, which Brin and Page called Googol, for the amount of information the search engine would be able to search. Googol is a word for the number represented by 1 followed by 100 zeros. At their first meeting, Bechtolsheim did not need to hear too many details; he wrote a check for $100,000, Brin said. The check was made out to Google, Inc., essentially forcing the two young men to set up a corporation, if only to cash the check, with a slightly different spelling from their original name.

Ultimately, Brin and Page raised $1 million from family, friends, and other investors, and on Sept. 7, 1998, Google was commercially launched from a friend's garage in Menlo Park, Calif. Initially, Google got 10,000 queries a day. By 2004, the number was 200 million a day.

Operating out of a 500,000 sq. ft. headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., affectionately known as the GooglePlex, the company in 2004 had almost 2,000 employees. According to forms filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Brin and Page owned more than 38 million shares of Google stock, or roughly 40 percent of the company. When Google went public in 2004, it was estimated that the company had a value of $23 billion, and each founder was worth many billions of dollars. Many employees, whose perks at the work-place include washing machines, doctor visits at company offices, roller hockey, table tennis, pool, a staff masseuse, and free meals and snacks, became millionaires.

"To google," as a verb, has come to mean "to search for something on Google"; because of Google's popularity (80 percent of all Web users, perhaps) it has also generically come to mean "to search the Web." At its peak in early 2004, Google handled upwards of 80 percent of all search requests on the World Wide Web through its Web site and clients like Yahoo!, aol, and cnn.

In September 2004, Brin and Page went to Israel for the 80th birthday party of Shimon *Peres and praised Israeli technology. "Israel looks to me like the next Silicon Valley; it has the potential to be even more successful than Silicon Valley, because people here are hungrier," Brin said.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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