‘I’m Google’s Third Founder’

Who is Hubert Chang and what does he have to do with Google? Chang has emerged from obscurity this week with the audacious claim that he helped launch the search giant in 1997 along with acknowledged co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

Chang posted his story on the video sharing site Vimeo and it was picked up by the Web site Weberence. It spread virally from there, even to YouTube, a Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) property.

But far from adding another legitimate chapter to Google’s storied history, the video leaves many questions unanswered.

In the video, Chang said he met Stanford professor Rajeev Motwani in the summer of 1996 while studying for a Ph.D. at New York University. Motwani, later introduced him to Brin and Page, who were students at Stanford.

Chang claims he helped Brin and Page come up with the PageRank algorithm that became the basis for Google’s search engine. He also said they all agreed on the kind of corporate culture the company should have.

InternetNews.com asked Google for a statement on Chang’s claims and if Brin and Page acknowledge knowing him. The company’s e-mail response is as follows:

“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.”

Chang is not mentioned on the company’s list of milestones and key contributors.

Chang, who could not be reached for comment, claimed he did not stay to help found Google because he had a made a commitment to his father to finish getting his Ph.D. He also said his e-mail correspondence from 1997 was not saved because he exceeded the NYU e-mail quota for messages at the time.

In the video, Chang makes no claim for part ownership of the company. He said he exchanged e-mails with Brin and Page after earning his Ph.D. in late 2002, but that the communication became less friendly and only came from third parties until it finally stopped altogether.

“It was frustrating and not a very pleasant experience,” he said of the e-mail. He speculates the e-mail correspondence might have stopped because “they’re simply in a position of status, where it’s awkward to fully acknowledge the past.”

He closes the video by noting after ten years he’s telling his story. “I feel quite confident about the good side of humanity. If you could, please forward this video to your friends. Thank you.”

Sound familiar?

Squabbles over who originated a specific technology or concept are nothing new in Silicon Valley. The latest high profile case involves competing claims by Harvard classmates that Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of social networking giant Facebook, wasn’t the only founder.

Veteran Silicon Valley observer Tim Bajarin said there’s no doubt in his mind that Google “is truly the brainchild of Larry and Sergey.”

“Clearly, there’s no question they needed help in the early days and there were other people involved,” Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, told InternetNews.com. “None of this stuff in the Valley happens without some serious collaboration, but making this kind of claim so late leads me to be very skeptical.”

News Around the Web