published on Monday, September 26, 2005 in The Miami Herald
Searching for insights from Google's success.
search site and stock market wonder Google has changed the way we
access information and, in many ways, our culture.
BY RICHARD PACHTER
Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business
and Transformed Our Culture. John Battelle. Portfolio. 311 pages.
The Internet has engendered two killer applications -- e-mail and
E-mail is kind of obvious; it attracts users by enabling fast, easy
and cheap communication. But search? It's only obvious in hindsight.
Who would have foreseen that finding websites with specific content
would be the single most important aspect of the Net -- and the
When I first started using the Web in the mid-90s, just about everyone
I knew used Yahoo
as their home page because it helped them decide where they wanted
to go. Yahoo was -- and is, now more than ever -- a portal, an entrance
to other things. Among them is a place to search for other sites,
including those not associated with their own.
Google started out as a search
site, but unlike Yahoo and other sites offering search capabilities,
Google's owners realized that there were enormous
business opportunities inherent in leveraging each user's search.
Google is a made-up word, a whimsical derivation of the term ''googol,''
a one followed by a hundred zeroes. But now it not only refers to
the Internet site and corporation that owns it, it has also become
a verb that's synonymous with searching. Feel free to Google yourself
if you like). You'll be surprised what comes up. In fact, many singles
wouldn't dream of going on a first date with someone they hadn't
Journalist and entrepreneur John Battelle's new book about Google
is a surprisingly entertaining and engaging lesson on how and why
the establishment, growth and dominance of the company portends
a revolutionary shift in commerce, at the very least.
Savvy marketers like Seth
Godin have declared the death of intrusive advertising, and
Battelle presents a vivid and persuasive case for Google's role
in its demise.
Along the way, he provides necessary lessons on the challenges and
opportunities inherent in any Silicon Valley start-up, before and
after the burst bubble of 2001, as well as a primer on Google's
business and competition.
A gifted writer and journalist, he breathes life into short portraits
of the Google
principles and the people who traversed parallel paths of innovation.
Before Google, most search sites based their findings solely on
content. If, for instance, you sought information on horseshoes,
your results were based on how many times documents mentioned horseshoes.
But Google, started by a couple of Stanford graduate students, was
inspired by academic papers, which used citations for references.
The innovation they offered was a method of ranking sites based
on how they are linked from other sites. Along with additional factors,
founders devised a set of criteria, expressed as a mathematical
algorithm, that delivered superior search results and was more likely
to yield sites that others had found useful.
Battelle's prose is as non-geeky and jargon-free as possible, but
technorati are sure to find much that will appeal to them here,
as will those of us who want to know the business side of things,
too. The author's combination of knowledge and curiosity makes The
Search a real find.
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