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The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture Paperback – October 3, 2006
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If you pick your books by their popularity--how many and which other people are reading them--then know this about The Search: it's probably on Bill Gates' reading list, and that of almost every venture capitalist and startup-hungry entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. In its sweeping survey of the history of Internet search technologies, its gossip about and analysis of Google, and its speculation on the larger cultural implications of a Web-connected world, it will likely receive attention from a variety of businesspeople, technology futurists, journalists, and interested observers of mid-2000s zeitgeist.
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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Rather than write a book strictly about the rise of Google as a business, technology journalist Battelle targets his research on the concept of Internet search, beginning the book with a discussion of an abstract idea he terms the "Database of Intentions," defined as the sum total of all queries that pour into search engines daily, revealing the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of our culture. Though most of the book is devoted to the search engine giant (which Battelle reports corners 51 percent of the search engine market), the author also includes chapters on "Search, Before Google" and the "Who, What, Where, Why, When. And How (much)" of search. Battelle is at his best when describing the creation of Google, especially through the yin-yang personalities of its founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and in describing the company's culture. Though Battelle's descriptions of Internet search technology can get too technical for readers without a computer science background, the book is a deeply researched and nimbly reported look at how search has defined the Internet and how it will continue to be a tremendous reflection of culture.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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John Battelle does a great job at giving a detailed overview of the role of Search, which is especially helpful for a person like me, who has a very limited knowledge of this topic. In addition, having a strong business and technical background, Battelle is even able to get a lot of insider information to further support his ideas. For example, he is able to incorporate his interviews with people like Brin and Page at Google, Bezos at Amazon, Yang and Filo at Yahoo, etc. Not to mention, he even brings the lesser known to the spotlight: Bill Gross, founder of GoTo.com, the first company to successfully provide an Internet search engine which relied upon sponsored search results and pay-per-click advertisements. It is these parts of the book that are most interesting, and enlightening. Not to mention, the book is a lot more credible with so many key figures of the Search industry being incorporated into the book.
Before reading this I thought that Search was just a box to enter in terms to search for. However, it is a rapidly growing field that morphs with many business ramifications: advertising, media, and sales to name a few. As we all know, Google makes the majority of their money off advertisements. In addition, many Internet users use the search engine to do their shopping as they are able to do some research on the item and find the best price before making their final purchase. Or, many also just do it because it allows for them to conveniently shop in the comforts of their own homes. The search engine's capabilities are endless. Many really novel ideas are and will continue to be coming out of the search engine/internet media industry. Already, we are thinking beyond text search queries and looking into visual queries. However, at the same time, agreeing with Battelle, we are definitely not far from search becoming like the voice of the Star Trek computer that even understands our verbal queries.
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.