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Book Review: The Google Story by David A. Vise January 14, 2008

Filed under: development — danielharrison @ 9:48 pm

I got this for Christmas, all in all an interesting read. Ultimately trying to distil the story of googles success into a book that appeals to the wider public is tricky but I think the author did a good job. I personally was more interested in the startup phases and how they got funded and going which the book chronicled and really gave the sense of two founders with a vision trying to get the world to see just how compelling it was.

For the most of the book it was on song but at times I felt the author was going too far to simplify and explain things. I think there were a few chapters in the middle that could be dropped or further expounded. 13 Global Googling and 14 April fools I didn’t think added much and seemed out of place in the middle of the book. 15 Porn Cookie Guy would have been more interesting and relevant if the author expounded in more detail google’s involvement with porn and how it fits in their ethos and just how much it is responsible for googles early success, if at all. I was surprised to see a section on click fraud but considering this is one of the key issues for a company that makes the majority of it’s money from advertising was pertinent and a good run-down on the advertising based challenges google faces at the moment. There was some interesting sections on the triumvirate nature of googles management, how hard it was to recruit a CEO both founders liked and how the split classes of stock works. Also interesting was the fact that the IPO system is so heavily slanted to the big financial players and how google tried to usurp the power with their Dutch auction. After reading the book I admire both the founders for staying true to their vision above pretty much everything else and having faith that they were right.

It was the ‘Fully Updated Edition’ but I think on Internet time things move so fast it’s inevitably behind. That said it’s the early times of google that I found most interesting and the author does really well to convey the attitudes and the feeling of the founding and crazy growth of google.

Interesting points of note:

Ultimately the first 100k they received was by an angel (Andy Bechtolsheim) before they even had a company. According to the book he met with the founders, talked, saw the value of the idea (despite the fact others hadn’t seemed to see it) and then wrote a check there and then.

Google had a great product for a while before they were able to commercialise it. At least from what I can see they were forced to commercialise it after passes from the leaders in the field at the time, yahoo, altavista. I get the sense Larry and Sergey believed in their idea and the way to make it happen meant they had to found google.

It seems at least Larry and Sergey are fans of chaotic spaces. I’ve always somewhat disagreed with Joel’s notion that programmers must have quite spaces to work. I think in environments where there’s lots of smart people together you get a boiling pot and together you get great ideas rising to the top. For all intensive purposes I think the next office is equivalent to the next continent. Having people next to each other and chiming in to conversations just results in brilliant ideas.

It’s worth a read, it’s pretty thin so something you can power through on a lazy weekend.


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