The Google Story
Google is the kind of company that has warranted countless books over the years. Its one I write about often in terms of progress on the internet and within the entire digital sphere, and a company I continue to follow closely and study as it continues to evolve (more on Google TV, Google Glasses, Googles wireless car, Google Consumer Surveys as well as expansion into other services and networks in a separate post). While Jeff Jarvis’s WHAT WOULD GOOGLE DO shed insight into the psyche of the company and really provided an overall into how Google really thinks, David A.Vise’s THE GOOGLE STORY is a more introspective look at how the company started, how the tools that we’ve come to treat as “second nature” evolved, and the day-to-day operations side of things at Google as well as the more basic principals that Google believes in. The real difference here is that the book focuses on the creators of Google Sergey Brin and Larry Page with a in depth look at their dynamics which WHAT WOULD GOOGLE DO didn’t (and wasn’t really the aim of that book either).
Below are some tidbits which help us understand Google all the more better and resonated with myself as a reader:
- “Google’s transcendent and seemingly human qualities give it special appeal to an amazingly wide range of computer users, from experts to novices, who trust the brand that has become an extension of their brains. That appeal is universal, enabling it to overcome differences in culture, language, and even geography en route to becoming a global favourite”
- “Google is a place where technologists think first of ways to solve problems; only later, if ever, do they worry about how to “monetize” them”
- “We run Google a bit like a University” Brin explained. “We have lots of projects, about 100 of them. We like to have small groups of people, three or so people, working on projects”
- “To just invent something and have a great idea is a lot of work but is it not enough. You have to get it out in the world”
- “The mention in PC Magazine put Googleon the radar screen of thousands of people for the first time and it also taught the guys a lesson about the power of free media exposure as their Silicon Valley neighbours blew millions of dollars they didn’t they didn’t have on Super Bowl ads and extravagant marketing, Google grew in popularity and recognition without spending a dime”
- “Googlers also enjoyed a bevy of conveniences like on-site laundry, hair styling, dental and medical care, a car wash- and, later,. day care, fitness facilities with personal trainers, and a professional masseuse- which virtually eliminated the need to leave the office. Beach volleyball, foosball, roller hockey, scooter races, palm trees, bean bags, even dogs- it was all part of making work fun and fostering a creative, playful environment…..”
- “The internet revolution, it turned out, was fundamentally changing the nature of advertising and marketing of goods and services…”
- “A technology outsider, Berkowitz intuitively grasped what many Web insiders completely missed: that the Internet had much in common with traditional media and could be viewed simply as another way of delivering content and advertising to users worldwide”
This would be the case with the original features of Web companies, though for the more socially driven web companies this doesn’t necessarily hold true.
- “People are productive when they are working on things they see as important or they have invented, or are working on something they are passionate about”
- “But the practice of googling raises important questions of privacy and etiquette that have yet to be widely of definitively addressed. Just as cell phones and email brought new codes of contract that had to be learned over time, Google has forced people to confront and agree on new behaviors. What is the distinction between the harmless googling of an individual and cyberstalking? Should people tell each other upfront they have googled them, or pretend not to know the details they learned in a search?”
- “Students of all ages are heavy Google users, although some teachers and professors actively encourage the use of more specialized academic search engines, and also encourage the use of libraries, face-to-face meetings and other time-tested, traditional ways of extracting important information. Educators remain divided over the merits of Google. Many says it makes students lazier, encourages plagiarism, and hinders the learning process by encouraging one-touch, rapid-research, rather than diligent digging that is driven by a desire to know more about a subject. Others praise it, saying its ease of use encourages exploration of primary documents and analysis at all hours day or night”
- “Most people don’t worry about privacy issues until their own privacy is violated”
- “While combating unwanted porn, Google makes millions of dollars annually on pornography ads displayed alongside search results. One out of every four requests for information on Google and other internet search engines involve pornography, according to a 2004 study by Family Safe Media, a watchdog group. That statistic suggests that Google fields tens of millions of requests for pornography daily”
- “Google has stated that the search engine will not accept ads for prostitution, yet it sells ads to Web sites that bid for the phrase escort service. Typing those words into Google yielded the following ad: Hot Casual Sex. Men & Women in Your Area. Find The Match You are Looking for Now. Typing “XXX” into Google yielded: “Millions of People looking for Sex! Sign up today and get laid tonight. On Googles Web site, it states that Safe-Search blocks Web pages containing explicit sexual content from appearing in search results. Using the SafeSearch filter at its strictest level, a search for “XXX” blocked all adult content from appearing in free search results, but it did not block ads with adult content including….”
Aside from the insights above, the book delves heavily into the personal background of both Brin and Page, showcasing not only their passion for creating a company that lasts “forever”, but also detail into their personal background. For anyone who is a fan or user of Google, the evolution of how simple services we take for granted today like Search and Gmail came about. This recent article here from Forbes made an argument that Google may not be around in the next 5 years, however I personally believe that it comes down to evolution, and if there is one digital company in todays day and age that has managed to constantly evolve time and time again, Google is easily one of the top (I’m more inclined to go with this counter-argument.
This is an extremely structured and thought-provoking account of Google-behind-the-scenes, the visionaries who started it, the principals of the company, and the public face…highly recommended read.
Prashant Harish Hari