PageRank is a link analysis algorithm which assigns a numerical weighting to each element of a hyperlinked set of documents, such as the World Wide Web, with the purpose of "measuring" its relative importance within the set. The algorithm may be applied to any collection of entities with reciprocal quotations and references. The numerical weight that it assigns to any given element E is also called the PageRank of E and denoted by PR(E).
PageRank was developed at Stanford University by Larry Page (hence the name Page-Rank) and Sergey Brin as part of a research project about a new kind of search engine. The project started in 1995 and led to a functional prototype, named Google, in 1998. Shortly after, Page and Brin founded Google Inc., the company behind the Google search engine. While just one of many factors which determine the ranking of Google search results, PageRank continues to provide the basis for all of Google's web search tools.
The name PageRank is a trademark of Google. The PageRank process has been patented (U.S. Patent 6,285,999 ). The patent is not assigned to Google but to Stanford University.