Just as Google is celebrating its 10th anniversary, a man claiming to be the “third” founder of Google has come out to stake his claim to history. In the video above, a man calling himself Hubert Chang claims that as an NYU Ph.D student in 1997 he was introduced to Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin by Stanford professor Rajeev Motwani. He then helped the two come up with PageRank (the underlying algorithm that powers Google’s search engine), the name Google, and even the business plan.
So why wasn’t his name on the original PageRank paper? Because, he says, he decided to pursue his Ph.D instead. Then when he did finish his Ph.D n 2002 and contacted Google, he got the big brush off from Larry and Sergey’s handlers. (Surprise, surprise). Remember, boys and girls, always ask for a byline.
Is any of this true? I have no idea. It could be a hoax. But I have emails into professor Motwani, Google, and Hubert Chang asking for more details. By his own account, though, it sounds like Chang walked away from Google because he thought it wouldn’t amount to much. His mistake.
(Hat tip to Webrence).
Update: A Google spokesperson got back to me with the following (non) response:
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.
So Google is not denying Chang’s account or calling him a fake.
Update 2: Stanford prof. Rajeev Motwani does a better job distancing Chang from the early days of Google. He came back to me with the following response:
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.
I do recall receiving a couple of emails from Hubert Chang in 1997 or 1998. Its been such a long time that I don’t have any recollection of their contents but it’s probable I shared those emails 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.
Update 3: A Google spokesperson has given us the following revised statement:
There is no substance to Hubert Chang’s claims – he had no involvement in the creation of Google. Neither Larry or Sergey have any recollection of meeting him – however, given the number of people they’ve met in the last decade it’s impossible to say categorically that they never have. Rajeev Motwani, the Professor and Director of Graduate Studies at Stanford, believes he may have shared some emails from Mr. Chang with Larry and Sergey in 1997 or 1998. But in any case PageRank had already been developed by that time, and Larry and Sergey had already decided to start Google