Billionaire geeks of Google and Facebook go to war (and YOU'LL be the loser)

Sergey Brin rolls into work on skates, while colleague Larry Page tinkers with a £77,000 electric sports car. Mark Zuckerberg, meanwhile, waves around a fencing foil when he gets excited.
These are the unconventional billionaires behind the two biggest companies in cyberspace – and they are going to war. Google and Facebook are gearing up for a high-tech battle for our digital lives. 
How we search the web, how we shop online and how we communicate in the years ahead will be decided by three geeks with a history of riding roughshod over customers’ privacy.

King geek: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, the youngest ever self-made billionaire, enjoys a stroll with his girlfriend Priscilla Chan in Palo Alto

At 37, Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page are internet veterans. Worth an estimated $15 billion (£9.6 billion) each, they rule an empire that employs 23,000 people and processes a billion search requests every day. 
The pair enjoy vintage wines and even have a Boeing 767 ‘party aircraft' kitted out with hammocks, king- size beds and showers.
One person unlikely to get a boarding pass is baby-faced Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg. The 26-year-old may only be worth a paltry $7 billion (£4.5 billion), but he has a community of 500 million users. His first Facebook business card reads: ‘I’m CEO, bitch!’
‘They’re egotistical and young for the amount of money, power and prestige they have,’ says a source. ‘Along with their success comes a certain amount of arrogance.’
Stories of their exploits echo around Silicon Valley in California. They include Zuckerberg turning up late for a meeting with venture capitalists and still wearing his pyjamas. He is also said to have turned down the chance to meet the Queen because ‘I don’t have time for these things’.
All three entrepreneurs cultivate the laid-back, anti-authoritarian image of their student years, when they first formed their companies. Brin and Page earn a symbolic $1 a year from Google – and Brin is still officially on leave from his Stanford University PhD studies.
In the early days of Facebook, Brin would hang out at its scruffy office in Palo Alto, California, sitting on a mattress because there were not enough chairs.
‘The Google guys thought Mark was special and smart from a really early time. They showed him respect,’ says a source. ‘But there has been less interaction between them as the companies have become more competitive. It comes down to ego: they’re all people who really want to win.’
Now that their projects have grown into multinational companies, the founders of Google and Facebook are finding that even cyberspace isn’t big enough for the both of them. Page and Brin are angry that Facebook has made it difficult for users to transfer digital contacts to Google. They’re planning Google’s own, more open social network.
Last week, in a sign of their new aggressive tactics, they bought internet discount business Groupon for $5.3 billion (£4.1 billion). Insiders describe is as ‘a killer move’.
Kara Swisher, of the All Things Digital website, said it would give Page and Brin ‘huge troves of data about consumer buying habits and merchant information across the globe’.
Meanwhile, Zuckerberg is starting a search site with social features, and will soon launch a competitor to Google’s email service.
Google is still the bigger company but Silicon Valley is awash with rumours that many of its software engineers are ‘running through the door’ to join Facebook. And experts fear that online sniping might develop into a fully-fledged cyber war.

Google co-founder: Larry Page, estimated to be worth £9.6 billion, cuddles up on his party jet with wife Lucy

Partners: Google co-founders Sergey Brin (left) and Larry Page strike a pose at company headquarters in Mountain View, California

‘Page and Brin believe machines are better at making sense of the world’s information than human beings,’ says Sarah Lacy, author of Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good, a book about Silicon Valley.
‘Facebook at its core is a really social company. Zuckerberg has the view that social connections can make daily life more efficient.’

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