Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Search: An insight into the development of Google and search

This book "The Search: An insight into the development of Google and search" is probably one of the most important books highlighting the development of search as a business, focusing on the evolution of the idea and growth. You will get an inside view of how a company named Google became an icon, the undisputed market leader of search and the company feared by many others. You also get an idea of the future potential of the search market, and some trends of how the future of search could develop into.
Google is the main star of this book, and this focus on Google seems quite natural. There have been many search engines before Google such as Altavista that were popular, but the sheer simplicity and power of Google blew away all contenders, and it would be hard to talk about why search is such an interesting topic unless you focus on a company that made search so popular.

The Search: An insight into the development of Google and search
The author of the book, John Battelle, is well suited to write a book such as this. After all, when you get a person who has been intimately connected with some of the pioneering influential sites on the Internet arena such as 'Wired' magazine, 'The Industry Standard' magazine and is able to touch base with the heads of some of the leading people in this area - such as the founders of Google, founders of Yahoo, the chief brain behind the Altavista search, and the venture capitalists (who are as connected and important for technological developments as the entrepreneurs themselves). As a result, the book presents a great detail of the inside view on how search as a technology and business developed, how early pioneers such as Altavista and pioneered some of the technology, but were almost shoved aside when Google came into the picture.
There are some great number of stories in this book; one among them that always puzzled me was as to why Altavista, at one time the number one leader in the search space lost out so easily in the search game (the suits running the company failed to take advantage of the early lead). If you ever wondered as to how this company called Google came into being and what was the growth like, then this book has the answers. For people who were confused as to the difference between Google and Yahoo, you get a lot many answers in this book.
However, the book does not always go ga-ga over the Google Story, with a fair amount of criticism of the company also included. Thus you get to hear about the internal style of functioning of the company (with the 2 founders almost being portrayed as dictators), about how different the development/organizational model of Google is when compared with other software companies. For me, one important section was about the Google policy of 'Do no evil'. Even though the book has covered the ethical dilemmas of Google when matching this policy with the force exerted by the Chinese Government, it does not cover the disappointment that a lot of people felt when Google compromised and agreed to be a part of the China censorship effort (through its site).
Overall, this book will take you through the development of search in some detail, including the evolution of Google and to some extent of Yahoo, and some trends in future search technology development. Most of all, this book should enthuse you about what the single-minded dedication (and luck) of a group of inventors can take them. Read the book for some inspiration.

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