There's a good chance you found this article using Google. But even if you didn't, there's a very good possibility that you'll use the ubiquitous company's search engine or one its related products sometime today.
That should say a lot about this company's reach and impact in the online world. It all started with two guys -- Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the co-founders of this seemingly unstoppable Internet juggernaut. But the initial concept belonged to Page.
Page started as an engineering student at the University of Michigan and went to Stanford to work on his dissertation. He decided that his dissertation topic would focus on the Web, primarily because he was interested in the mathematics behind the Web's construction.
He was particularly fascinated in the way Web pages linked to each other, in essence citing each other as important reference points in what would otherwise be a chaotic and unreliable online world. He proposed an automatic program (called a crawler) that analyzed how many other sites linked to one site, and also the importance of the sites that linked to that site. The more important the links, the higher the PageRank.
When the concept proved successful, he and Brin realized the potential of their creation. They set out to create Google, with the intention of making all of the world's information universally accessible and useful.
Of course, Google search is a free service. So how did Page acquire more than $12 billion? In a word: ads. Google has two ad programs, called AdWords and AdSense. When you perform a Google search, AdWords advertisements are displayed on the right side of your search results. AdSense ads appear on other Web sites; Web site owners let Google display ads and Google pays that site owner a fee.
Marketing types at other companies pay money -- and a lot of it -- to display their ads through Google services. The end result is a search engine with so much cash that it can buy the best programming and business talent to perpetuate its success. In the process, Google employees such as Page make more than a little cash of their own.