Brian McCullough, host of the “Internet History” podcast and author of the upcoming book “How the Internet Happened,” spoke at Weber State University on Oct. 17.
He delivered an address titled “The History of Google” as part of the ongoing Peterson Leadership in Technology speaker series.
McCullough detailed the events that led to Google’s formation with the intent of giving context and inspiration to tech students and other attendees.
Drew Ackerman, an attendee and Weber State student, said part of the reason he attended the event was his professor offered extra credit for students in attendance.
“It put all these startups into perspective,” Ackerman said. “The idea that they started from a user experience more than just trying to make profit is pretty neat.”
McCullough shared a few details regarding Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
“When Larry and Sergey first met, by all accounts, they hated each other,” McCullough said. He later said although their personalities clashed, they had similar backgrounds and interests, which led to their eventual partnership.
Quoting Marissa Mayer of Yahoo, McCullough said, “You can’t understand Google unless you know that both Larry and Sergey were Montessori kids.”
This academic background, according to McCullough, is largely what shaped the understanding and partnership between Page and Brin.
“It’s engrained in their personalities,” McCullough said. Similarly, he said because they were both pursuing graduate degrees in math-related fields at Stanford University, they were uniquely equipped to tackle the internet.
According to McCullough, Page’s inspiration for Google came from a curiosity regarding the fact that the web was built entirely on links.
“What bothered him was that you could map out the web only in one direction,” McCullough said. “He decided he wanted to find a way to trace the back links and map out the web that way, for no particular reason other than he wanted to find out what the web would look like if you could see how the underlying structure worked.”
From this background, McCullough said Page and Brin created something that is largely responsible for the current state of the internet. Facebook’s success is based largely on its imitation of Google’s AdWords program, and other social media platforms employ similar tactics to achieve their end results as well.
Luke Fernandez, co-director of Weber State’s Center for Technology Outreach, arranges guest speaker schedules for the lecture series. “The speaker series is intended to get the university and the community to think about the particular interactions that humans have with their tools,” Fernandez said. “We’re a species that uses tools, and Google is such a significant tool and is so familiar to everybody. Practically everyone on campus uses Google as a tool every day.”
Regarding McCullough, Fernandez said the university is fortunate to have heard from him when it did.
“Brian’s book is yet to come out,” Fernandez said. “It’s being published this spring. He certainly does have a wide following on his ‘Internet History’ podcast, but I’ve read excerpts of the book, and it looks like it’s going to be a bestseller. We were able to bring him in before he becomes famous, and we probably won’t be able to afford him once that book comes out.”