Saturday, January 07, 2006

Just completed "The Search"

I'm just wrapping up reading the epilogue of John Battelle's excellent "The Search - How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture", which I bought with an Amazon gift certificate from a friend for Christmas. It's a great book with amazing, captivating storytelling. I've only read one other industry book that I tell people is a must-have if you're in the IT business or into the web lifestyle, Stephen Segaller's "Nerds 2.01 - A Brief History of the Internet".

Battelle's fine work is right up there with it. This is going on the hallowed section of my home library of maybe five titles I re-read once a year just to get perspective.

The book's main focus is primarily Google, but there's also a healthy dose of the other major players in the search game, like Amazon's A9, AltaVista, AllTheWeb, Yahoo and Microsoft.

The book does, in my opinion, lack a bit of the technical explanation behind Google's processes (to each his own, most people would get turned off by this as it'd be way over the head of the average reader). I would have liked to see more drilled down into the company's data center and distributed computing philosophies and the company's adoption of open source software (there are a couple of paragraphs dedicated towards detailing the former). They rolled their own Linux implementation, which wasn't mentioned, and have pretty much put Python on the map as a programming, which also didn't make the final cut.

This is what drew me to "The Google Legacy" by Stephen E. Arnold. And Larry Page's and Sergey Brin's original concept of PageRank.

But not taking anything away from Battelle's work - he does a fantastic job early on of breaking down web-wide search and the components involved. The book is still spot-on in terms of the strategy, financial profile, legal issues, unique corporate culture, human resources practices, adventures with venture investors, stock performance, insider interviews , horror stories, brutal truths and a historical look at the company. The final chapter, "Perfect Search" also talks about what's on the horizon for search, maintaining the belief that in all, web search is only 5% completed.

Mostly everyone interested with Google's read this already, so I'm glad to have joined the group. It's a fine investment and fine writing. Pick this one up. Kudos, John - well done.


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