Hubert Chang Claims To Have Helped Build The Plan For Google

Posted Sep 24, 2008

There is a difference between those who build a product or service out of a conversation versus those who don’t act upon an idea.  Those who don’t act upon an idea end up possibly regretting it later.  When Microsoft bought DOS from Seattle Computer Products in 1980 for $50,000 and contracted it to IBM, thus creating millions of dollars in revenue, Tim Paterson was not happy.  When Microsoft valuated Facebook at $15 billion based on the $240 million investment, we started hearing about ConnectU, the company that claimed Facebook stole their ideas.  And now that Google is worth $136 billion and has turned 10 years old, Hubert Chang has created a video claiming that he helped with the idea and business plan for the search engine.

Hubert Chang claims that he helped come up with the idea for Google and is considered a founder just as much as Larry and Sergey.  Chang stated that he was introduced to the founders of Google by Professor Motwani.  Given this interesting claim Erick Schonfeld of TechCrunch e-mailed Google spokespeople and Professor Motwani himself.  Motwani stated that he recalled exchanging a couple of e-mails with Chang and shared them with Larry and Sergey.  But at that time PageRank was already in place and Google was being built.  Google also e-mailed TechCrunch stating that Larry and Sergey have no recollection of meeting Chang.  And “PageRank had already been developed by that time, and Larry and Sergey had already decided to start Google.”

Will anything come out of this for Chang?  I think that the most he will get is the acknowledgement that he had a conversation about an idea.  Unless Chang can come up with any evidence that Larry and Sergey took his idea and ran off with it, to the public this may not be a valid claim.  Personally based on his expression and the fact that Motwani acknowledged his existence makes me convinced that at least he might have contributed an idea or two.  At the end of the day, everyone has that one great idea, but the ones that actually implement it get the glory.

In any case, Below is the full transcript I wrote from the video as accurate as I can understand. 

My name is Hubert Chang.  After viewing this tape, some people may think I’m lying, some will think I’m crazy, some will be upset.  While others will consider I’m honest, but the tape has to me made.  Google was designed by Larry, Sergey, and me in February 1997.  The design includes the search engine algorithm, the business model (AdSense and Adwords), the name of the company, the outline of the system architecture, corporation culture like a grad school, and Google’s scoring patent.

We also discussed other interesting technology ideas that can change the world and make the world a better place.  We knew that even though Google wouldn’t be a complete failure, but to make it successful, we still need help from many people and we still need some luck.  We really want to create a place that (where) people will ask fundamental questions.  Even though we might have those answers to those questions, we still encourage asking them.  Because others may come up with a better solution and if they do not, we will gradually dig them to discover the (muffled) and we have just like some teachers will do. 

Larry and Sergey were introduced to me through Professor Motwani of Stanford University Computer Science Department.  Professor Motwani listed NYU in the summer of 1996 and that’s how we met.  In january 1997, I (had) a view about treating the web page as a graph.  And as a mathematical property of this graph to Professor Motwani and how to model traversing the graph and whether it could be used in web search.  Professor Motwani says he doesn’t know whether it’s going to be be useful or not.  And I got anxious and asked him he can find someone to help and work with me.  And two weeks later I got an e-mail from Larry and Sergey.  And over the e-mail became friends.  It was an intensive and interesting collaboration.  Larry and Sergey had thought about counting the links on a webpage, but they didn’t go far.  At one point Larry asked me what’s the formula to try.  I gave him one formula with an intuition why it might work and how to use it.  Essentially each page has a value, we called it PageRank as in webpage.  And it seems fun because it also rhymes with Larry’s last name. 

As I was preparing for my PhD preliminary exams, so they (started) constructing the search engine.  After a few months in earlier September 1997, they asked me whether I wanted to put my name on the paper that they were going to submit for a conference.  After some thought I decided not to.  It may seem unwise now, but it made sense then because I (had) to finish my PhD.  And putting the name on the paper is the committment to finish the Google project.  That will not lead to a PhD.  To acquire a PhD is to fulfill my father’s wish.  When my father was young, he got a full art scholarship from the United States, but he wasn’t able to accept it because my grandfather wouldn’t let him the money for the airline ticket.  So as the only child since I was kid, I was told that I wouldn’t have to worry about going abroad and study.  And other than that, I owe my life to my father.  When I was 10 years old, I got internal gastric bleeding.  If it wasn’t for my father’s immediate discovery and rescue, I wouldn’t be here today.

It was a uncomfortable and difficult decision.  I told Larry and Sergey that, after a few years assuming that I finished my PhD, I will contact them.  And they can go ahead with the Google project.  Larry, SErgey, and I all want to change the world and make the world a better place.  We also have one other thing in common: that we all have parents that are teachers.  They said they understood why I (chose) what I had to do.  In late 2002, I got my PhD.  And the initial contact was promising, then it took different turns without any warning or given any explanation.  Then it was off and on and finally stopped.  The responses were always from a third person and not directly from Larry or Sergey.  Unfortunately, my e-mail contact communication with them in 1997 was not safe.  My e-mail quota was small at the time and it often exceeded the quota, so I didn’t save them.  Since last contact I have been agonizing in whether or not to talk about it.  Probably Larry and Sergey were busy.  They didn’t communicate with their employees well.  Or their employees didn’t communicate with them well.  Or they were indecisive about what this place or position meant.  Or they are in a status that is awkward to fully acknowledge the past.  I do not know which.  It’s been 10 years.  And i think this information needs to be known.