TR: How do you two work out the division of responsibility?
Brin: Larry focuses a little more on the operations side-computers and things like that. I focus on research and marketing. But for the most part we’re interchangeable. It’s a great convenience to us; it gives us more flexibility.
Page: We’re like parents-the interactions are similar. Occasionally, somebody will get upset with an answer they get and they’ll run to the other parent, but we almost always give the same answer.
TR: A factoid making the rounds is that Google is the world’s largest installation of the open-source operating system Linux. How did you come to settle on Linux as a standard?
Brin: Linux is well supported, free and runs well on PCs. What’s not to like?
Page: At Stanford, because we took computers whenever we could find a spare, we ended up with one of everything. And we found that the PCs running Linux were faster, more reliable and a lot cheaper than anything else.
TR: What’s to stop another startup from coming along and beating Google at its own game?
Brin: I believe the search industry is like the semiconductor industry at a younger stage-search engines are becoming more complex, and the barriers to entry are rising. Google now has over 6,000 computers. Search has become expensive.
TR: What’s next for Google.com?
Page: We have a six-person research group that’s chartered to do things that are one year away and that may or may not work. We are on a quest to build the ultimate search engine. We think it will be a smart tool that understands exactly what you want, understands all the information on the Web, and then it gives you the exact right thing. We think Google is significantly better than anything else out there right now, but we have a huge list of things to do that will take us closer to the ultimate search engine.
TR: Things like what?
Page: Recently we have focused on making sure we have access to all the public information in the world. We’ve increased the size of our index to over one billion pages, and we will be very aggressive about continuing to expand that. If you assume each Web page would involve two pages to print if you printed out our indexed pages, it would be about 100 kilometers high. And we search that in less than a second. We want to access everything available, all over the world, in all languages. We recently added Chinese and Korean. Everybody here knows that the mission is to increase people’s experience when they are looking for things.
TR: Do you get acquisition offers for the company?
Page: Oh sure, all the time. We try to dissuade people from giving us offers, though. We’re growing at a good rate, we have been successful at attracting good people and we are increasing our traffic tremendously. We believe we are going to dominate the market-and if you believe that, it’s hard for anyone to pay you enough to justify selling. Search is the number-one application on the Web. And it’s easy for people to try out different search engines so they can compare. They notice differences and they tell their friends. Friends tell friends. And that’s how we grow.
TR: How is running Google different from being at Stanford?
Page: They’re kind of the same. I’m working on a lot of the same problems, just on a bigger scale. Maybe I’m too close to it to have perspective. Probably in three years, I’ll sit back and say, “Holy cow, what happened?”