The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture Hardcover – September 8, 2005
The Amazon Book Review
Book recommendations, author interviews, editors' picks, and more. Read it now.
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Frequently bought together
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
This ambitious book comes with a strong pedigree. Author John Battelle was a founder of The Industry Standard and then one of the original editors of Wired, two magazines which helped shape our early perceptions of the wild world of the Internet. Battelle clearly drew from his experience and contacts in writing The Search. In addition to the sure-handed historical perspective and easy familiarity with such dot-com stalwarts as AltaVista, Lycos, and Excite, he speckles his narrative with conversational asides from a cast of fascinating characters, such Google's founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin; Yahoo's, Jerry Yang and David Filo; key executives at Microsoft and different VC firms on the famed Sandhill road; and numerous other insiders, particularly at the company which currently sits atop the search world, Google.
The Search is not exactly the corporate history of Google. At the book's outset, Battelle specifically indicates his desire to understand what he calls the cultural anthropology of search, and to analyze search engines' current role as the "database of our intentions"--the repository of humanity's curiosity, exploration, and expressed desires. Interesting though that beginning is, though, Battelle's story really picks up speed when he starts dishing inside scoop on the darling business story of the decade, Google. To Battelle's credit, though, he doesn't stop just with historical retrospective: the final part of his book focuses on the potential future directions of Google and its products' development. In what Battelle himself acknowledges might just be a "digital fantasy train", he describes the possibility that Google will become the centralizing platform for our entire lives and quotes one early employee on the weightiness of Google's potential impact: "Sometimes I feel like I am on a bridge, twenty thousand feet up in the air. If I look down I'm afraid I'll fall. I don't feel like I can think about all the implications."
Some will shrug at such words; after all, similar hype has accompanied other technologies and other companies before. Many others, though, will search Battelle's story for meaning--and fast. --Peter Han
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
- Hardcover : 320 pages
- ISBN-13 : 978-1591840886
- Item Weight : 1.15 pounds
- Product Dimensions : 6.24 x 1.14 x 9.22 inches
- ISBN-10 : 1591840880
- Reading level : 18 and up
- Publisher : Portfolio Hardcover; First Edition (September 8, 2005)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,753,574 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
I'm glad that I did.
I had seen Battelle on Bloomberg West and he was particularly smart and articulate. My one initial hesitation with The Search: I had already read many books about Google. (I count Ken Auletta's book among my very favorites.) Did I really need to read yet another book about Larry and Sergey's company?
But here's the rub: Battelle's book is hardly Google-specific. Rather, it's about the vast implications of being able to find an increasing amount of information within seconds, a trend that shows no signs of abating. Now, to be sure, you can't write a book about the history of search without delving into Google, but this is a book about so much more than one company. For instance, I learned a great deal about the role of Bill Gross and GoTo.com, a precursor to Google and the guy who cracked the nut on paid placements. I hadn't realized that Larry and Sergey modified Gross' central idea.
A Glimpse of What's Beyond
While I probably should have read this excellent text when it was released, in a way I'm happy that I stumbled upon it now. Sure, AOL and Yahoo! are not nearly as relevant today as they were when Battelle was hammering away on his Mac. But reading books like this years after their release allows you to assess the author's predictions ex post facto. Battelle's vision of then then-future in 2006 is, for the most part, panning out.
On a general level, my very favorite business books do the following:
* advance a big idea
* teach me something new (not that easy to do, since I read many non-fiction, business, and technology books)
* tell interesting stories
* leave me wanting more
Battelle does all of the above with considerable aplomb. The man is a gifted writer and I can't wait for his next opus.
Get. This. Book. Now.
Battelle's fine work is right up there with it.
The book's main focus is primarily Google, but there's also a healthy dose of the other major players in the search game, like Amazon's A9, AltaVista, AllTheWeb, Yahoo and Microsoft. So there's a holistic view of the search industry, without leaving out any of the majors.
The book does, in my opinion, lack a bit of the technical explanation behind Google's processes (I'm a software developer, so I like that kind of thing). I would have enjoyed reading more about Google's data center and distributed computing philosophies and the company's adoption of open source software (there are a couple of paragraphs dedicated towards detailing the former). Google rolled their own Linux implementation, which wasn't mentioned, and have pretty much put Python on the map as a programming, which also didn't make the final cut.
But not taking anything away from Battelle's work - he does a fantastic job early on of breaking down web-wide search and the components involved. The book is still spot-on in terms of the strategy, financial profile, legal issues, unique corporate culture, human resources practices, adventures with venture investors, stock performance, insider interviews , horror stories, brutal truths and a historical look at the company. The final chapter, "Perfect Search" also talks about what's on the horizon for search, maintaining the belief that in all, web search is only 5% completed.
It's fine writing. Pick this one up. Kudos, John - well done.
I remember how those SEs were visciously spammed and manipulated by Search Engine "Optimizers" (SEOs.) The search results were seldom relevant and porn links prevailed. (I recall the time when my 7-year-old son searched for "Pokemon" and landed at a hardcore porn site.)
There had to be a better way.
Then, out of the blue, appeared a new search engine that changed all the rules and introduced "link popularity." Search was never the same again. Now search results are ALWAYS relevant. In fact, Google always returns exactly the sites I look for. Amazingly, it sometimes even suggests what it THINKS I'm looking for.
This book tells this story and more, in detail. Although Google is featured prominently in the book, the author discusses in depth the search industry as a whole. You'll read about how ambitious and hungry Google, the company, is and about the power it possesses over Internet users.
Very engrossing reading. Highly recommended.
Top reviews from other countries
Of course, the length of time which has elapsed between the book being written (in 2006) and me reading it (last week) can't be ignored - especially considering the rapid evolution of this technology and the way it's impacted our behaviour - but the author's emphases seem to have stood the test of time, and even his tentative predictions about future developments aren't so off-the-wall (though he seems to dismiss too quickly the importance of intellectual property in a joined-up world). Today's reader is reminded of how quickly reliable and authoritative search has become assimilated into our lives as Google becomes, in Sergey Brin's words, "the third half of your brain", and we give up keeping track of facts and figures, confident that they're just a click away. That's a transition which has been criticised elsewhere (see, for example, The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember ), but this book is a handy reminder of a time when the future appeared less clear, and how we got to where we are.
There are similarities and parallels between the founders of Google and the founder of Microsoft. In both instances they are dropouts of elite universities in order to found companies and pursue their vision. In the case of Bill Gates the founder of Microsoft, the epiphany was the power of software. In the case of Larry Page and Sergey Brin the founders of Google, the driving insight was the power of Search.
The object of Search is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.
The author's treatment is balanced in that while he shows that the present Search is already enormous and its future virtually unlimited he also points to its ominous consequences such as the infringement on privacy.
To show what the future for Search reserves, a comparison with Micrososft would suffice:
The audacious goal of Bill Gates and Micropsoft was of a computer on every desk, and Microsoft products running on every computer. A goal achieved within twenty years and in the process rendering Bill Gates fabulously rich and Microsoft a stellar world company.
Let us consider Google's audacious goal:to organize information and make it accessible. Forget about a computer on every desk. The entire world needs to become computerized. Anything of value will be in Google's index. We have to visualize the merging of the physical world with the World Wide Web.
Microsoft's success was driving a computer to every desk with Windows on every computer. The next step in the evolution of the computer was the connection of every computer to every other-the Internet. But what comes after that?
According to the cognoscenti, the web is in the process of becoming the next great computing platform-the successor to Microsoft Windows, owned by no one but used by everyone. The web is also in the process of connecting to everything, just name it. The companies best positioned to deliver hugely scaled services over the web platform are best positioned to win. And when it comes to hugely scaled services nothing beats Search.
Google's mission of organizing information and making it accessible sets the company up to deliver nothing short of every possible service that might live on top of a computing platform:the Google grid.
We can conceive in our digital future Google as phone company; as cable provider; as university; as eBay, Amazon, Microsoft, Expedia, and Yahoo all folded in one. Fascinating, beguiling and awe inspiring!
Very interesting, definitely worth a read if you interested in this kind of book.