11 // Erik Prince
Founder and CEO, Blackwater Worldwide; Age: 38
Four years into the war, we learned something about the face of America in Iraq: It isn’t the reconstruction worker building a school or even the U.S. soldier—it’s the wraparound-sunglasses-clad Blackwater mercenary. These private warriors answer to Erik Prince, a conservative Republican with ties to the Bush administration who built his army-for-hire from veterans of elite forces, who are trained at a 7,000-acre facility in Moyock, North Carolina. Since 2003, the private security firm has reportedly earned upwards of $100 million a year by supplying bodyguards to the Green Zone elite. But last September, when Blackwater’s hired guns killed 17 Iraqi civilians in an apparently unprovoked attack in downtown Baghdad, we got a frightening glimpse of what Iraqis have been seeing for years: Prince’s army.

12 // Google
Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Founders; Ages: Both 34 (Last Year’s Rank: 11)
When wildfires scorched Southern California this fall, it was reported that some evacuees were Google Earthing their homes to see if they were ablaze. In addition to contributing yet another verb to the popular lexicon this year (“Google it,” “Google stalk her,” and now “Google Earth the new condo”), Sergey Brin and Larry Page snapped up the billion-dollar Internet phenom YouTube and saw the stock price of their Internet colossus exceed $600 a share. Next up: Google Health, a plan to make personal medical records accessible via the Internet and streamline health-information searches. If that doesn’t convince you that Brin and Page are taking over the world, try getting through a day without saying “Google.”

13 // YouTube
Steve Chen and Chad Hurley, Founders; Ages: 28 and 30 (Last Year’s Rank: 2)
When Google acquired YouTube late last year, the ghost of the dot-com boom hovered over the deal: $1.65 billion for a 20-month-old Internet start-up that hadn’t even turned a profit? But Chad Hurley and Steve Chen didn’t compromise their site’s messy democracy. That let them define political campaigns (Obama Girl), spawn newsy catchphrases (“Don’t tase me, bro!”), and scare the Pentagon—which blocked service members’ access to YouTube after the site launched a channel for “boots on the ground” combat coverage. “Few things have had as pronounced an impact on the business world—or the world at large—as YouTube,” says Tom Stemberg, a partner at the venture firm Highland Capital Partners.

14 // YouPorn
Stephen Paul Jones, Creator; Age: 27
It seems so obvious, but until a Stanford grad who uses the alias Stephen Paul Jones (and claims to be 27) launched the porn version of YouTube, no one had figured it out. Since its debut in August 2006, the user-generated video-sharing site YouPorn has become the Web’s most popular adult site, with more than 15 million unique visitors a month, and, in so doing, has fired a money shot across the bow of the $12 billion adult-entertainment industry. Why? Two words: free porn. And while YouPorn will go down as the why-didn’t-I-think-of-that idea of 2007, whether it survives—along with similar sites like PornoTube and Megarotic—will come down to the inevitable legal battles over piracy and age verification. “Traditional adult-video companies always thought people would pay for quality,” says MJ MacMahon, publisher of Adult Video News. “But in reality, consumers don’t care.”

15 // The Green Guilt-Tripper
Age: Thirtysomething
Meet the greener-than-thou crusader: your smug suburban neighbor with the Prius, the bumper-stickery guy in line at the burrito place, the soul-patched do-gooder in the next cubicle. They’re the voices of 21st-century green guilt, and they have more power over you than you care to admit. They influence what you buy (and what you don’t), what you drive, what you drink, how you dress, how you fry your eggs, and what kind of chicken laid the damn things in the first place. “We’re the people who remind you to save the world,” they sneer. And you’re the guy who says, “Maybe tomorrow, dude.” That is, if there is a tomorrow.

16 // The Spiritual Leader
Joel Osteen, Pastor, Lakewood Church; Age: 44
The most popular pastor in America casts God in the role of benevolent life coach. Known as the Smiling Preacher (his lovely blonde wife, Victoria, might be the reason for the grin), Joel Osteen doesn’t rail against sin, threaten damnation, or even refer to the Bible all that often—a strategy that’s helped his brand of “pastorpreneur” sell in precincts where Dr. Phil and Deepak Chopra hold sway. Each Sunday, Osteen’s services draw 40,000 people to a church that was once the home of the Houston Rockets, and he hosts the most-watched inspirational TV show in the United States. All of which helps explain how the Oral Roberts University dropout has sold 4 million copies of his 2004 book Your Best Life Now and why his new book, Become a Better You, had an initial print run of 3 million. “For men,” says Jim Twitchell, the author of Shopping for God: How Christianity Moved From In Your Heart to In Your Face, “seeing a minister with a hot wife kind of says this guy is one of them.”

17 // Kevin Martin
Chairman, Federal Communications Commission; Age: 40
Kevin Martin’s reign at the FCC will be known as the era when content providers got smaller (kids posting on YouTube)—and conglomerates got bigger (News Corp swallowed MySpace and now the Wall Street Journal). Since he was appointed in 2005, Martin has held the door open for some of the biggest media-consolidation deals ever, including a $67 billion AT&T-BellSouth merger and the pending $13 billion Sirius-XM satellite-radio deal. He’s proposed rules curbing sex and violence on cable and given the administration a pass on illegal wiretapping. But it’s the former Bush aide’s work on deregulating media ownership that will have the most lasting—and potentially Orwellian—effects. “This is a huge bugaboo for media reformists,” says Ben Welsh, FCC expert for the Center for Public Integrity, a media-watchdog group. “It’s getting activist communities going again.”

18 // Rascal Flatts
Gary LeVox, Joe Don Rooney, Jay DeMarcus; Ages: 37, 32, 36
The soundtrack of Middle ’Merica has always been country music. But three very average-looking dudes—Gary LeVox on lead vocals, Joe Don Rooney on guitar, and Jay DeMarcus on bass—are appealing to a much bigger fan base than their forebears did. Nashville’s Rascal Flatts became the top-selling act of any genre last year, moving more than 5 million albums by hooking a whole new demographic on twang. They mix pop and rock with boot-scoot and play it all without 10-gallon hats—a formula that’s made them one of the most popular groups among 10-to-12-year-olds and country music’s first runaway success in the digital-download realm. The Grand Ole Opry just got a lot younger, y’all.

19 // The Politician’s Son
Andrew Giuliani; Age: 21 / Craig, Ben, Josh, Matt, Tagg Romney; Ages: 26, 29, 32, 36, 37
The person who could most easily torpedo the presidential campaign of America’s Mayor is not a former mistress or political insider; it’s Rudy Giuliani’s own estranged son, Andrew. Junior’s antics have been embarrassing the Rudester for over a decade. This spring, an angry Andrew revealed that he and his father had no relationship and announced that there was no way he’d work on Pop’s political campaign. Now all it’ll take is one tearful “Daddy was a meanie” tête-à-tête with Diane Sawyer (his sister, Caroline, after all, has already shown herself to be an Obama girl on her Facebook page) and the “family values” voters will start smothering Mitt Romney in a coast-to-coast group hug. Which makes sense, because the seed-sowing Mormon has five strapping sons who love their daddy enough to slave away on his campaign.

20 // Ryan Seacrest
Age: 33 (Last Year’s Rank: 33)
Ryan Seacrest makes it all look effortless. He’s the 21st-century Casey Kasem and the meticulously groomed emcee of American Idolüthe affable foil to a surly Simon Cowell and a wacked-out Paula Abdul. But in reality, the telegenic host is a fierce workaholic who’s establishing himself as a dynamic Hollywood entrepreneur. He’s using the $21 million production deal he cut with the E! network to make calculated forays into reality TV (Keeping Up With the Kardashians), signing monster syndication deals for his American Top 40 program around the world and a two-hour entertainment-news show in the U.K., and even investing in slick restaurants. “He’s such a creative force in pop culture, just an absolute beast,” says Charlie Walk, president of Epic Records. “He’s Dick Clark, but much, much broader.” And with a much bigger plan for taking over the universe.