As a research project at Stanford University, Page and Brin created a search engine that listed results according to the popularity of the pages, after concluding that the most popular result would often be the most useful.
They called the search engine Google after the mathematical term \"Googol,\" which is a 1 followed by 100 zeros, to reflect their mission to organize the immense amount of information available on the Web.
Sergey Brin and Larry Page created the global search engine of choice and one of the most powerful companies in the world.
The Google co-founders' mission, along with not being evil, was to "organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful". In the process they became two of the richest people on the planet.
Google has diversified far beyond its search engine roots, taking on Apple's iPhone with its Android mobile platform and Microsoft with its Chrome browser and operating system. Then there is Google Mail, Docs, Maps, Books and video with the YouTube subsidiary it bought for $1.65bn four years ago. Coming soon: Google TV and, possibly, a rival to Apple's iPad. You can even buy the T-shirt.
The dominant player in the search advertising market, Google made profits of $6.52bn last year on the back of revenues of more than $23bn. All this without creating any content of its own – the controversial Street View aside. Rupert Murdoch accused them of "kleptomania".
So why, after two years as No 1 in the MediaGuardian 100, have Brin and Page been knocked off the top spot by Steve Jobs?
Partly it is a result of the phenomenon that is Apple's iPad (and the iPhone and iPod before it). Partly it is a result of the growing pains that Google has experienced over the past 12 months (although Apple is
now experiencing a few of its own.)
And partly it is because, in the shape of Facebook, it faces its most serious challenger to date. Mark Zuckerberg's brainchild unseated Google as the most-visited website in the US earlier this year, and poses a powerful threat to its dominance of the search market.
Social media is an area where Google has admitted it was caught cold; its own social media application, Google Buzz, suffered embarrassing privacy issues on launch, while its instant messaging service Google Wave failed to make many, well, waves.
Google has faced criticism over copyright (back to Murdoch again), concerns over privacy and a bitter backlash from authors and publishers over its controversial programme to digitise millions of books.
It is also being investigated by the European Commission over claims by its rivals that it has acted anti-competitively.
Three senior Google executives were found guilty in an Italian court of violating the privacy of a child with autism after a video of him being bullied was posted on Google Video, and the company's reputation suffered a battering after it agreed to censor its search results in China – a decision that has since been reversed.
Brin and Page, who met at Stanford University in 1995 founded Google three years later in a garage in California rented to them by Brin's future sister-in-law. Schmidt joined the company in 2001, and by 2006 the verb "to google" entered the Oxford English Dictionary.
The pair earn a token $1 salary each year and do not take a bonus. Worth an estimated $17.5bn each, they can afford it. Brin and Page will give up their majority control of the company in three years' time, selling 10m shares worth (at today's prices) $2.5bn each. They will still control 48% of the voting stock, but their hold on the company will be over.
Brin and Page put 1% of the company's annual profits into Google.org, their "technology driven philanthropy arm", and have invested heavily in alternative energy research. Moscow-born Brin has also invested heavily – $5m – to secure a seat on the inaugural Soyuz space tourist flight to the international space station.
Brin is more sociable than Page, according to the pair's biographer, Ken Auletta, and Schmidt, who quit Apple's board because of the increasing competition between the two companies and is two decades older than them, "often plays the role of grown-up".
Auletta recounted a meeting between Brin and Page and the media mogul Barry Diller, which may not have gone entirely as the latter anticipated. Brin arrived late on his Rollerblades and Page was more interested in typing on his handheld device. "Is this boring?" asked Diller. "No, I'm interested. I always do this," said Page. "Well, you can't do both," said Diller. "Choose." "I'll do this," replied Page, and carried on tapping.