Sunday, November 20, 2005

Innovation and Google

Google: Lessons for America's Innovation Policy:

What is not widely known is the contribution that federal research funding played in creating Google. Google was founded by Larry Page and Sergei Brin – two computer science graduate students at Stanford University. Stanford was one of a number of universities that received funding under the "Digital Libraries Initiative" – supported by the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. (DARPA is the agency that funded the ARPANET in the late 1960's, the computer network that led to today's Internet).

The goal of the initiative, launched in 1994, was to "dramatically advance the means to collect, store, and organize information in digital forms, and make it available for searching, retrieval, and processing via communication networks - all in user-friendly ways." Larry Page was funded under the DLI as a graduate student researcher, and Sergei Brin was supported with an NSF graduate student fellowship.

Page and other Stanford researchers created an algorithm called PageRank. It ranks the importance of each Web page based on the number and importance of other Web pages that link to it. This technological advance enabled Page and Brin to develop a search engine that found useful and relevant information, which was critical to Google's popularity. Google was also prototyped on equipment paid for by the federal government's Digital Library Initiative.

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