For a book that bills itself as something that will "offer insights into what we know, and don't know, about what the future holds for the imperiled industry", it does an excellent job with the first part, hard to say what was unique about the take of the author that was significantly different from other books such as What Would Google Do?and The Google Story: Inside the Hottest Business, Media, and Technology Success of Our Timeand hardly does justice to the last portion (what future holds). The story of the beginnings and rise of Google, its famed work culture, unconventional approaches of its founder are all well told - in this book as well as previous ones. Auletta tries to cast the discussion from the viewpoint of the advertising industry - and while that in itself doesn't provide a significantly different perspective (Anyone who understands Google's revenue streams already knows it is in the advertising business....), it does provide for interesting reading. For an initiate in the Google story, this book will do full justice. If you are already familiar with the Google story and thought that the author will focus on the future of advertising media and related topics, you are likely to be disappointed. A recent book The Curse of the Mogul: What's Wrong with the World's Leading Media Companies actually does more justice in that regard.
Auletta does (re)raise significant issues - the discussion on Google Books and copyrights is a clear standout in the book. The "hubris" as portrayed by traditional media companies during Google's infancy is mind-boggling and amusing (of course, with the benefit of hindsight). Other than the framing of the discussion in the viewpoint of media/advertising, a Google-buff is not likely to realize significant benefit from this book. That focus also forces the author not to be able to discuss products such as Google Health - which has the potential for being a disruptive solution in itself. Overall, an excellent read for the Google-newbie, but an OK addition for a Google-phile.
Without a doubt, this book is thoroughly and expertly researched.
However, it took me numerous ambivalent weeks to read it (BTW, it is not at all unusual for me to read 3 books at once and be finished with them all in two days and I am most positively interested in technology). Unfortunately, this one didn't "grab" me like I thought it would, given its topic: the most brazen, upstart Corporation in the History of the Universe. The Anti-Microsoft. What I call "The God Box," otherwise known as Google.
Although I can say I learned a lot I didn't know before (like the incredible level to which we have all been contributing personal data streams to cable, satellite, internet, and phone companies for YEARS and the commercial value of this information and the fact that My Favorite NerdHero, Jeff Bezos, is one of the original angel investors in Google AND that Amazon's search technology is based on an offshoot of Google's), it felt like those nuggets of wisdom were buried in a lot of unnecessary background noise.
I think if you personally knew some of the people covered in this book, you would find it more engaging than I did. For me, the first 2/5ths of the book read like a corporate dossier, reciting the degrees and digital pedigrees of individual employees and associated boardmembers, etc.
What I really wanted to read about was what the title promised: how Google transformed the world and how it would build it anew. I also hoped it would delve into how Google might be addressing the problem of Search Engine Optimizers who are gaming Google's algorithm and degrading the quality of search results.
I HATE to criticize a talented writer who has obviously poured so much effort into a project, but this book just fell short on delivery of its promised "sizzle," for my tastes.
"Googled" by Ken Auletta chronicles the rise of Google from its auspicious origins within the labs of Stanford University to its becoming perhaps the most influential technology company in Silicon Valley today. Mr. Auletta, who has covered the media and technology industries for many years, has drawn on his many dozens of personal interviews with key players to tell this remarkable story as only he can. Full of interesting anecdotes, insight and analysis, this highly readable book explains why Google matters a lot to consumers, businesses and policy makers.
Mr. Auletta excels at writing Google's corporate history, dedicating individual chapters to each year of its development from 1999 through 2008. Like many Internet success stories, we become acquainted with Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two (more or less) socially-awkward but undeniably brilliant persons who have remained true to their vision of making information accessible to end users via the Internet. Mr. Auletta explains that Google's focus on perfecting its proprietary search algorithms has proven to be widely disruptive to technology and media companies alike; while its control of information has garnered attention from governments and non-governmental organizations who are concerned about issues of corporate power and personal privacy.
Mr. Auletta discusses how Google's growth has posed challenges within to its management, corporate culture and strategy. While generally praising Page and Brin for their decisions, Mr. Auletta is concerned that Google's founders, who have yet to be confronted with the kind of adversity that afflicts most business owners, could be overlooking some of the external threats to the company's long-term viability; chief among these are what Mr. Auletta believes are legitimate public concerns about the use of private information for profit. Yet, it is clear from the author's thoughtful analysis that the technology and data Google collects has uniquely positioned the company to continue to take advantage of, if not define, the media/technology landscape for the foreseeable future.
I highly recommend this book to everyone.
As I started reading this earlier today, I thought it would be a glossy recounting of Google's history with little substance. I deliberately ignore the author's name when I first pick up a new book so that I won't be influenced by my previous experiences - had I known that Ken Auletta was the author, I would have known better. But I did not, and indeed the first few chapters seemed to confirm my expectation of fluff.
Honestly, I was getting bored and was very close to tossing it aside. After all, I know the history of Google and have been involved with Adsense both as an advertiser and a website publisher for many years now. I was an early adopter of Gmail, have e-books in Google Books and of course have a Google Voice account. I bought Google stock early on. I don't care very much about the personalities of the founders; I wasn't finding much to interest me.
Fortunately, I held on a few more chapters and realized that this is a much deeper examination than I thought. The wide eyed awe and admiration that seemed to be the the theme of the first few chapters started to be replaced with a closer look at wrinkles and flaws. I don't mean that the author is attacking Google - it's just a fair and balanced honest look at the reality that is Google.
Later chapters examine the gestalt of Google even more deeply. What does Google mean to other companies? What does Google's growth mean to itself? Can it really "do no evil"? These are all questions I've asked and thought about as I've watched Google grow and change. Ken Auletta has dissected the impact of Google thoroughly. I don't always agree with his conclusions, but he does hit all the stops and digs in to every angle.
Excellent analysis, very, very well done. The business and societal changes that are developing are important to understand - this book will help.
I must be a masochist. I read each and every one of the 336 pages of text comprising "Googled: The End of the World As We Know It".
It was an unrewarding experience.
I've never read anything by Ken Auletta before, at least not knowingly. I will never willingly read anything by him in the future.
There is so much wrong with this book that I have to edit myself from running on.
First, Auletta's grasp of technology and the contemporary history of technology are weak. There are several howlers scattered throughout the book that the technologically literate will pck up on immediately.
Next, though Auletta turns in a detailed history of Google - the only reason I give this book 3 stars - he is never clear as to what his point actually is - and he allows his biases to guide him, perhaps unknowingly.
Ostensibly the book is about how Google is changing the world. But Auletta's concept of "world" is limited - he really means the media and entertainment industries. He writes extensively of how newspapers are losing money. He joins editors and publishers and pundits in blaming this in large part, though not exclusively, on Google. Not once does he hold newspapers themselves accountable for their own destinies by allowing themselves to become political agents and stuffing their pages with fluff known as "infotainment". I used to read the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Wall St. Journal religiously and did so for decades. The New York Times began to resemble Pravda and wasn't worth my attention or my subscription money. Auletta blames the Times' substantial circulation losses on Google - not its own editorial policy. I stopped reading the Chicago Tribune because it became People Magazine or worse. Auletta doesn't blame the many newspapers who adopted this "infotainment" policies for their losses.
Auletta tries to make us feel sorry for the entertainment companies, their problems with piracy and their fear of Google. "Frenemy" he tells us is the new buzzword: a friend and an enemy combined. But he doesn't mention even once how the entertainment companies created millions of detractors by pricing their products high and suing their own customers among other things.
In all, this is a mediocre book. The parts about his conversations with Page, Brin, Schmidt and others are somewhat illuminating with regard to Google, but I was left with the impression that Auletta was rubbing the reader's nose in his having access to these luminaries while the plebian reader did not. I was, in fact, reminded more than once of the social climbing, name dropping late Dominick Dunne. Auletta thinks highly of himself and his skills not only at analyzing various industries, but of his ability to predict the future. I did not find him convincing.
In terms of style, Auletta is ponderous. He could have been served well by a competent editor.
The few occasional insights into the thinking of Brin, Page and Schmidt are interesting, but on the whole I found nothing to justify the pain of reading all 336 page - and now I wonder what masochistic impulse urged me on. I guess I kept hoping for something really interesting.
on October 25, 2009
When I saw the title of this book, I thought that it would tell me about all the fantastic new projects Google is working on, and how they will change how we do everything. However the majority of the book is retrospective, telling us how Google got to where it is now. It is a well written corporate history, with a lot of detail and insider perspectives. It describes how Google came to be the dominant player in the online advertising market with AdWords. It describes how Google News is hastening the extinction of most of America's newspapers. It talks about Android, Google's alternative OS to the iPhone. It covers the exciting but mismanaged Google Books project. But when it comes to describing Google's latest initiatives, like the Google Chrome OS, or the latest exciting and slightly scary developments in the Google Maps/Google Earth platform,the book falls woefully short.
Perhaps the author could not expand on what exciting new initiatives Google has is because all the really exciting news lately has been from other companies. The most life-changing products to hit the market lately have been Facebook and Twitter, neither of which are Google products. It is also worth noting that while search will never go away, Twitter, and to a lesser extent Facebook, have gone a long way to changing the way we access data. Instead of simply searching for things, people can now share links quickly and easily with their network of friends. Android has yet to make a significant dent on the iPhone's market share. Perhaps if Google made a more concerted push to support and develop Augmented Reality technology for Android phones, because AR certainly seems to be where the next wave will come from, and there are no dominant players in that field yet.
In the end, I was misled by the subtitle of the book, "The End of the World as We Know It," into hoping it offered a view of the future. Given the fact that I read the book in paper format, I should have known that this was a long shot. Our view of the future is constantly changing, and it is an unrealistic expectation to hope that a book author can make predictions that will a) stand up to the delay between idea formulation and publication and b) avoid being leaked and widely distributed on the web prior to publication.
on August 1, 2012
I purchased "Googled: The End of the World as We Know It" hoping to gain insight into what made Google such an incredibly successful and paradigm-shifting company. Ultimately, I was disappointed--largely because Mr. Auletta did not seem to fully understand what he was writing about. Mr. Auletta is, unquestionably, an excellent writer. He clearly did his job in terms of research too. His use of interviews as primary sources gave the book credence. Other reviewers have commented that the book becomes bloated and repetitive in its second half. I found this to be very true, but largely for a single reason: Auletta never made it to the heart of Google. His book eventually stalls because of a seeming inability to accept the completely unique and geeky corporate culture at Google. It is almost as if the author is part fascinated and part horrified at the sight of engineers running a company. Ironically, this underlying theme of the book mirrors that of the media companies, which Auletta seems MUCH more comfortable dealing with. Like old media, the author is seemingly in a state of denial, observing the cataclysmic rise of tech companies while stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the fact that nerds are now in charge.
Maybe the best book I've read about Google and tech culture. It has made me think - despite many who are using it to herald the decline of Google - to further invest in the company. I think it's interesting how rarely writers call these businessmen out on their conflicts of interest or accurately contextualize their position. It bothers me how little real knowledge most of these tech writers have about the companies they cover.
Auletta seems to think that Google's engineering culture is problematic because it leads to PR blunders or angers competitors. The problem is really that an engineer is almost an alien compared to most people - people who think emotionally or practically instead of systematically. Robert Greene has a very good chapter about this, about knowing your audience and feeling connected to it. A product like Google Wave solves a problem that no has complained about and its launch makes sense only to someone who takes communities and groups for granted. This is what an engineering culture does to you - it deprives you of common sense and of a direct kinship with the people whom you're trying to serve.
on March 10, 2010
The thought that ran through my mind in reading Ken Auletta's GOOGLED is that it was like a Saturday Night Life sketch that was fine in and of itself, but weakened when made into a full length movie. The chapters that sparkled were those right out of the gate on Google creators Larry Page and Sergey Brin. After that, the narrative was consistently the same--Google doesn't want to be like others, it is and isn't concerned about revenue, it is tearing down the old media. Interesting in places, but not enough new content to fill up a book over 350 pages.
on December 29, 2009
I just finished Googled, The End of the World as We Know It, by Ken Aulletta, arguably the best media critic of our times. The book is chock full of anecdotes, insights and implications for any company that wants to compete on the new media battlefield.
There are amusing yet telling stories, like Mel Karmazin's first visit to Google in 2003, when he actually declared that measurement was "f@#$ing with the magic," implying that ad dollars should go to the best sales person not the most effective medium.
Lesson: arrogance can't win in the new digital democracy.
Throughout the book readers find constant reminders (AOL, Excite, Lycos, Digital, Wang) that we can't predict; we can only prepare. Combine them with great examples of what Clayton Christenson labeled the "innovator's dilemma," (NY Times, network television, music industry) and chances are you'll do a better job of identifying your own tendency to defend existing business models at the expense of embracing necessary change.
Lesson: don't hold on to the past with too tight a grip.
Through Auletta's filter we discover all that Google did right (20 percent, belief in the wisdom of crowds, do no evil mantra) as well as where they failed (China censorship, for one) and what their greatest challenges maybe in the years to come (trust, privacy, government intervention).
Impressive is Google's willingness to experiment, take risks and innovate and along with their relentless standard of hiring only "spectacular" people, even if it means Sergey and Larry have to interview every single engineering applicant.
Lesson: first, create a culture.
And finally, while Auletta gets to Google's shortcomings and excesses, this book is as much about those of us who aren't Google. Why didn't the NY Times invent CNN or become a search engine? How is it Sports Illustrated didn't start ESPN? What about AOL the company that launched Instant Messenger losing that space to Facebook?
Lesson: even if you're a media company find a way to hire engineers and developers.
The end of the world as we know it can be interpreted any number of ways. From our loss of privacy, to the concentrated control of one company, to the need for the rest of us to think differently.
You may finish the book angry, concerned, or inspired. But either way, you should finish it.