Aha! “The Birth of Google”, reported Wired in August 2005, “began with an argument.”
Apparently when Google founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, first knew each other in their undergrad days in Stanford, they clashed incessantly, debating over many things. Jokingly, Page said he thought Brin was arrogant. Brin retorted that Page was obnoxious, “We had a kind of bantering thing going.” In the reporter’s words, “they were clearly drawn together – two swords sharpening one another.” Later however, it was their shared obsession with backlinks that started something big.
When Page and Brin began searching for topics for their doctoral theses, they kicked around 10 or so intriguing ideas, but found themselves attracted to the burgeoning World Wide Web.
“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… 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… Page noticed that while it was trivial to follow links from one page to another, it was nontrivial to discover links back. In other words, when you looked at a Web page, you had no idea what pages were linking back to it…
“Academics build their papers on a carefully constructed foundation of citation: Each paper reaches a conclusion by citing previously published papers as proof points that advance the author’s argument. Papers are judged not only on their original thinking, but also on the number of papers they cite, the number of papers that subsequently cite them back, and the perceived importance of each citation. Citations are so important that there’s even a branch of science devoted to their study: bibliometrics.
“…it was Tim Berners-Lee’s desire to improve this system that led him to create the World Wide Web. And it was Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s attempts to reverse engineer Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web that led to Google. The needle that threads these efforts together is citation – the practice of pointing to other people’s work in order to build up your own.”
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