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Bill Gates twixt Putin and pope at No. 4 in Forbes 'most powerful'

Still Microsoft's chairman but focused more on his charitable endeavors, Gates moves a notch higher amid some heady company.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
3 min read
Bill Gates.
Bill Gates. Microsoft

Wielding both wealth and influence, Bill Gates is the world's fourth most powerful person, as ranked by Forbes.

Rising to fourth place from fifth last year, Gates was cited by Forbes for his vast fortune. The Microsoft co-founder is worth $65 billion even after donating more than $28 billion toward various causes.

But it's also his mission and his influence that make Gates a powerful man.

As co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he's been on a quest to stamp out a variety of diseases around the world. As Forbes notes, Gates estimates that the efforts of the foundation could help save as many as 8 billion lives by 2020.

And he's been urging his wealthy peers to devote their money toward the cause. The foundation's "Giving Pledge" has been asking the richest individuals and familes in America to donate the majority of their wealth toward philanthropy. The effort has gotten some steam. A total of 23 more contributors signed the pledge this year, adding up to 91 in all.

All of that was good enough to put Gates just ahead of Pope Benedict XVI, who took the fifth spot. The top three places on the Forbes list went to heads of state: U.S. President Barack Obama in first, followed by Germany's Angela Merkel and Russia's Vladimir Putin.

Meanwhile, other tech players are among the world's most powerful in Forbes' eyes.

Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page both shared the No. 20 spot among the most powerful people. Page runs the search giant as its CEO, while Brin has been spending a lot of time on Google Glass, the augmented reality eyeware slated to reach consumers in 2014.

Facebook's founder Mark Zuckerberg closely followed the Google guys by taking the 25th spot. The social network's IPO reduced the value of the company, leading Zuckerberg's own wealth to drop to less than $14 billion from more than 17 billion. But Forbes still sees the man as a tech powerhouse, noting that Facebook finally reached 1 billion users this past October.

Other tech moguls on the most-powerful list included Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos at No. 27, Apple CEO Tim Cook at No. 35, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at No. 46, and LinkedIn chairman Reid Hoffman closing out the list at No. 71.

But it's not just the U.S. that's responsible for the most powerful tech players.

Ranked No. 11, Mexico's Carlos Slim Helu made his money through telecom and is the world's richest person with a net worth of $72 billion.

Hon Hai Precision CEO Terry Gou was ranked No. 55 even though his company is a mixed bag. Hon Hai, aka Foxconn, is responsible for manufacturing some of the world's most in-demand tech devices, including the iPhone, the iPad, the Kindle, and the Xbox 360. But it's been hurt by charges over unsafe labor conditions at its factories.

And as No. 64 on the list, Robin Li is the founder and CEO of Baidu, China's biggest search engine.