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A view of Google in the age of rapid media change,
This review is from: Googled: The End of the World as We Know It (Paperback)
I have read several books about Google over the years, and this one is certainly the best written of them all. This is not surprising - Ken Auletta is a writer, journalist and media critic for The New Yorker. His writing is of an exceptionally high quality and a pleasure to read. The book is also very well researched, with first-hand accounts from many of the key players at Google and other companies that prominently feature in this story. Many of the stories about Google's early years have been written about before in other books and articles, but there are also a substantial number of new, untold accounts. In particular, we get a better idea of who were the important early investors in Google and the order in which they supported the fledgling company. Several not-so-famous high-level operatives are profiled who had a substantial influence on Google's development. However, even though these profiles are not the typical puff-pieces that have come to dominate the popular business press, they are not all that critical and candid either. From the point of view of writing an interesting story this is somewhat to be expected. The triumvirate that runs Google despite their incredible business success is composed of three very geeky individuals that don't necessarily have the most exciting personalities. On the other hand certain other highly visible members of the Google hierarchy perform rather obscure functions in the company that are hard to get too excited about from the outsider's point of view. None of the books about Google that have come out so far provide us with the intriguing stories of what is really going on inside Google - clashing personalities, conflicting projects, dazzling new ideas, development dead ends, etc. This is particularly noticeable when comparing books about Google to books about some other prominent technology companies - Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, etc. Apple in particular, even though infamous for the level of secrecy, has enjoyed a spate of recent books and articles that reveal much more about its product development and internal affairs than any one of the books about Google that are out there.
There are a couple more weaknesses of this book from the point of view of content. Google is a company that prides itself above all on its technology, and yet you will find very little in terms of technological details in this book. Even if you are not someone who is intrigued by technology, it would be important to read about some more prominent technological aspects of Google, at least in order to put Google's success in context. Most technology companies don't succeed, and this is particularly true of search engines, and it would be important to understand what are the technical advantages that Google has that keep it so well ahead of all of its competitors.
The other big problem that I had with this book is that it provides an inordinate amount of space to other companies and business developments in recent years. In particular, Auletta seems to be very fascinated with the media business and the rapid changes that have been happening to it in recent few years. For instance, the newspaper industry is going through what could be the greatest evolution in its history, and this book tries to give this change a perspective. Google and other internet companies are the key players in this transformation, and it is important to understand how newspapers and Google are influencing each other. However, Auletta doesn't seem to be able to strike the right balance and he dedicates more coverage to the industry that he is undoubtedly more familiar with - newspapers.
Overall, despite its flaws, this is very interesting book to read as long as you don't expect to learn too much about Google proper.