In many ways, Larry Page and Sergey Brin seem an unlikely pair to lead an advertising revolution. As Stanford graduate students sketching out the idea that became Google, the two software engineers sniffed in an academic paper that "advertising-funded search engines will inherently be biased toward the advertisers and away from the needs of consumers."

They softened that line a bit by the time they got around to pitching their business to venture capitalists, allowing that selling ads would be a handy safety net if their other, less distasteful ideas for generating revenue didn't pan out.

Google soared in popularity in its first years but had no meaningful revenue until the founders reluctantly fell on that safety net and started selling ads. Even then, they approached advertising with the mind-set of engineers: Ads would look more like fortune cookies than anything Madison Avenue would come up with.

As it turned out, the safety net was a trampoline. Those little ads - 12 word snippets of text, linked to topics that users are actually interested in - have turned Google into one of the biggest advertising vehicles the world has ever seen. This year, Google will sell $6.1 billion in ads, nearly double what it sold last year, according to Anthony Noto, an analyst at Goldman Sachs. That is more advertising than is sold by any newspaper chain, magazine publisher or television network. By next year, Mr. Noto said, he expects Google to have advertising revenue of $9.5 billion. That would place it fourth among American media companies in total ad sales after Viacom, the News Corporation and the Walt Disney Company, but ahead of giants including NBC Universal and Time Warner.

Not content to just suck advertising dollars from Web search, Google is using its windfall to pay for an eclectic range of ambitious projects that have the potential to radically disrupt other industries. Among other things, it is offering to build a free wireless Internet network in San Francisco, plans to scan nearly every book published and is testing a free classified advertising system it calls Google Base.

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