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Good description of Google's rise
on 12 February 2009
I picked this up when it was going cheap in Zavvi's sale. It's a good account of the rise of Google: how they recognized search as the most crucial component of the web and made their money by adding targeted advertising to their search results. I was somewhat disappointed at the paucity of technical detail beyond some journalistic hand-waving about a "seamless blend of hardware and software at ... a massive scale", and the fact that Google's servers are assembled from commodity PCs. This, it's somewhat breathlessly announced on page 2, is "perhaps Google's best-kept secret", which sounds rather self-contradictory. However, given the general audience that the book is written for (and the many details of their architecture that really *are* secret - even down to the number of servers they employ), perhaps this isn't too surprising - though I'm pretty sure that even a general reader wouldn't need to be told (p35) who Midas was.
There's also some degree of repetition across the chapters, which makes them read more like self-contained magazine articles instead of pieces of a coherent whole. But in general, I found this an entertaining read, and an interesting story about how Google has changed the world over the past couple of decades. On a personal note, I was also surprised to discover from this book that one of my (vanishingly tenuously linked) associates from the field of computer graphics in the early 90's had shared an office with Google's founders at Stanford. It's a small, joined-up world.