Google Founded By Sergey Brin, Larry Page... And Hubert Chang?!?

Chang claims that he collaborated on Google's original PageRank algorithm and should be recognized as a company founder.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

September 24, 2008

3 Min Read

History is written by those with enforceable ownership rights, but those who were sidelined often claim a footnote. The Beatles had Pete Best. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg had ConnectU founders Divya Narendra, Cameron Winklevoss, and Tyler Winklevoss.

And now, just in time for Google's tenth anniversary, Hubert (Hung Hsien) Chang would like to be added to the list of Google founders, a club that until now has consisted of Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

"Google was designed by Larry, Sergey, and me in February 1997," Chang claims in an online video.

Google's sparse corporate history makes no mention of Chang.

Chang says that he was introduced to Brin and Page by Stanford computer science professor Rajeev Motwani, when he asked whether Motwani knew anyone who could help him work on a Web search idea he had. Motwani, Chang says, referred him to Brin and Page. The resulting collaboration lead to the development of the PageRank algorithm, Chang claims.

Motwani, in an e-mail, dismissed Chang's claims. "To the best of my knowledge, his claims about being a founder of Google, coming up with the name and/or the business plan etc, are completely unfounded in reality. I am sure I would have noticed a third founder, if one existed, since I was working closely with Larry and Sergey at Stanford the time," he said. "I do recall receiving a couple of emails from Hubert Chang in 1997 or 1998. It's been such a long time that I don't have any recollection of their contents but it's probable I shared those e-mails with Larry and Sergey. In any case, by that time the basic idea of PageRank was already in place and there was a clear intent of building a company around this. I am pretty certain that none of the three of us actually met with Hubert Chang during that time period."

Chang says that Brin and Page asked him in September 1997 whether he wanted to have his name included on the PageRank paper they planned to submit to a conference. "After some thought, I decided not to," he says. "It may seem unwise now, but it made sense then because I had to finish my PhD and putting names on the paper is the commitment to finish the Google project."

Chang says that completing his PhD was what his father wanted for him. He got his PhD from New York University in 2003, but he hasn't gotten the time of day from Brin and Page since then. As Chang tells it, they have ignored his attempts to contact them over the years.

"It's been 10 years, I think this information needs to be known," Chang's video concludes.

Chang did not reply to a request to elaborate on why he was coming forward after 10 years and whether he intended to seek remuneration for his claimed involvement in Google's founding.

Google appears to be disinclined to accept Chang's claims. "Though many people were involved with Google in its early days, it has been well-documented over the past decade that Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded the company in September 1998," a Google spokesperson said in an e-mail.

This article was updated on Sept. 24 to include statements by Rajeev Motwani.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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