Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Google Story

Just finished this book by David Vise. Readable, but an outsider view rather than telling you about how Google works. The first half is better, in telling the story of the early days of Google. The second half is more focused on the stock and business side. As a whole it reads like a set of press clippings melded together -- in fact it probably is as Vise is a newspaper journalist -- and in the second half, as the story acquires more dimensions, the approach breaks down as questions and situations are posed but not answered or taken to their conclusion. Moans aside, I did enjoy the book and learning more details about the Google philosophy. Brin and Page use(d) no ads or marketing, but developed the world's most brilliant business by word of mouth. I remember using a set of not-very-good search engines, including Metacrawler, back in the late nineties, and how my life was instantly changed when a colleague told me about Google. I have never used another search engine since. I love many of Google's options, particularly gmail, news, scholar, earth and google alerts. I have also just begun using the personalised homepage. Nevertheless, Google is rubbish at some things, eg translations, mail lists (I signed up to one a year or so ago which seemed to be receiving mainly spam). But mainly it is just such a fantastic business lesson: give consumers a product they like and make lots of money, which you use to give them more things they like (from the relatively minor to vast projects such as book digitisation). Google's ad solution is great, in that their ads make them money while able to be totally ignored by users.