21. Sergey Brin and Larry Page
for standing up to China's bullying.
Co-founders, Google | Mountain View, Calif.
Sergey Brin and Larry Page, presidents of a global search giant valued at $196 billion, have assigned themselves a mission no smaller than "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." The scale and diversity of Google's ambitions would be laughable if the company weren't already so far along in accomplishing them. Through its philanthropic arm, Google has also spent $100 million since 2004 on everything from wind-power ventures to public health.
But the world's greatest answer provider has also raised plenty of questions. Blithely certain of its own virtuousness -- its motto, famously, is "Don't be evil" -- the company has stumbled into controversy with its apparent disregard for privacy and its recent support for multitiered access to the Internet. At the same time, however, the company has grown into its responsibilities as a global player. After years of obliging China's sprawling censorship regime, Google in 2010 forced a showdown with the country -- reportedly at the behest of Brin, whose family escaped Soviet Russia when he was a child. ("It has definitely shaped my views, and some of my company's views," he told the New York Times.) Google then devised a clever workaround -- routing Chinese search requests to servers in Hong Kong -- that allowed Chinese officials to save face while easing restrictions for the country's citizens. For a company renowned for digital intelligence, it was an impressive display of the human kind.
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