Part of what impresses Cheriton about Page and Brin is their willingness to question conventional wisdom and trust their own judgment, even when it means ignoring the advice of their elders.
For example, he initially disapproved of their teaching a course in search technology at Stanford, fearing they would give too much away. But one result of that course was that they got other students excited about the technology and wound up hiring many of the schools most talented computer scientists. That was the beginning of a pattern of seeking out excellence in all of Googles hires.
Even when the venture capitalists were pressuring them to hire a more experienced CEO to replace Page, who initially held that position, the founders refused to buckle under until they found the right person, Cheriton said. "They were playing the same game of asking, What can this person bring to the table that we cant already do?"
In terms of technology, Brin and Page not only innovated with PageRank but also led the company to create an economical distributed system, based on thousands of servers built from commodity PC hardware, to support the gathering, storage and analysis of Web content on a huge scale, Cheriton said. If they hadnt mastered that early on, he said, the cost of operating the search engine likely would have spiraled out of control.
Both Page and Brin grew up in households where math, science, technology and academic excellence were cherished. Page was the son of a computer science professor and a database consultant, while Brins mother worked at NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center and his father was a math professor.
Page is a born tinkerer. His official biography says that while he was an undergraduate in engineering at the University of Michigan, he built an inkjet printer out of Lego blocks. When Google was establishing its first production data center, Page helped design its original hand-built computer racks from tightly packed components mounted on corkboard.
Brin, a native of Moscow, earned his undergraduate degree with honors in mathematics and computer science from the University of Maryland at College Park and is currently on leave from the doctorate program at Stanford, where he received his masters degree. He has published more than a dozen scientific papers, including those he co-authored with Larry Page about applying data mining principles to the Web.
Page now holds the title of president of products; Brin is president of technology. While letting Schmidt be Googles front man, they still wield enormous influence over the way the company operates.
Both men are still in their early 30s and looking to continue to work on achieving Googles mission "to organize the worlds information and make it universally accessible and useful."
In the beginning, they thought they might be able to create a nice little company with a couple of hundred employees, Page said at last years Google Press Day. But then they realized that "the area we were in, search, was too important to the world for a small company to really succeed in it. To fulfill that mission, we had to grow. Now we really are accomplishing a lot by making information more accessible."
Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on enterprise search technology.