Page and Brin, both 35 now and worth nearly $19 billion apiece, declined to be interviewed for this story. But they have never left any doubt they view Google as a force for good - a philosophy punctuated by their corporate motto: "Don't Be Evil."
"If we had a lightsaber, we would be Luke (Skywalker)," Silverstein said.
A "Star Wars" analogy can just as easily be used to depict Google as an imposing empire. It holds commanding leads in both the Internet search and advertising markets. The company processes nearly two-thirds of the world's online search requests, according to the research firm comScore Inc., and sells about three-fourths of the ads tied to search requests, according to another firm, eMarketer Inc.
The dominance has enabled Google to rake in $48 billion from Internet ads since 2001. Google hasn't hoarded all of that money: the company has paid $15 billion in commissions to the Web sites that run its ads during the same period, helping to support major online destinations like AOL, Ask.com and MySpace as well as an array of bloggers.
"Google is the oxygen in this ecosystem," Battelle said.
The company hopes to inhale even more Internet advertising from the biggest deal in its short history - a $3.2 billion acquisition of online marketing service DoubleClick Inc. that was completed six months ago.
Google also is trying to mine more money from its second-largest acquisition, YouTube, the Internet's leading video channel. YouTube is expected to generate about $200 million in revenue this year, an amount that analysts believe barely scratches the video site's moneymaking potential.
Eventually, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt wants the entire company to generate $100 billion in annual revenue, which would make it roughly as big as the two largest information-technology companies - Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM Corp. - each are now. This year, Google will surpass the $20 billion threshold for the first time.
Schmidt, 53, who became Google's CEO in 2001, seems determined to stick around to reach his goal. He, Brin and Page have made an informal pact to remain the company's brain trust through 2024, at least.
But some rivals are determined to thwart Google. TV and movie conglomerate Viacom Inc. is suing Google for $1 billion for alleged copyright infringement at YouTube, while Microsoft signaled how desperately it wants to topple Google by offering to buy Yahoo for $47.5 billion this year.
Microsoft withdrew the takeover bid in a dispute over Yahoo's value, but some analysts still think those two companies may get together if they fall farther behind Google.
The notion that Microsoft - the richest technology company - would spend so much time worrying about Google seemed inconceivable in September 1998, when Page and Brin decided to convert their research project in Stanford University's computer science graduate program into a formal company.
Page, a University of Michigan graduate, and Brin, a University of Maryland alum, began working on a search engine - originally called BackRub - in 1996 because they believed a lot of important content wasn't being found on the Web. At the time, the companies behind the Internet's major search engines - Yahoo, AltaVista and Excite - were increasingly focused on building multifaceted Web sites.