Excellent audio that held my attention the whole way through. I liked that it was not a puff piece and got a true look from a business perspective at where Google started and what they have succeeded and failed at.
Interesting, amazing and disturbing. It's great American entrepreneurial tale, but in the back of my mind I couldn't escape the realization that the core of their business is selling ads. Billions of dollars in ads, and said billions they spend like drunken sailors.
Barbarians at the Gate, because that book features a similar value toward large sums of money and the desire to own everything.
Neutral, bland and unexciting. There were a few pronunciation curiosities... "DEC" is usually pronounced "Deck," and to the best of my knowledge, "Vista" in "Alta Vista" is not pronounced "Vee-stuh." Small quibbles, though.
It's worse than you think.
I enjoy Steven Levy's books. Hackers is one of my all-time favorites. BUT it's clear that the cost of the level of access to Google that Levy was granted came at a cost of objectivity. Still, it's an interesting story.
Since the advent of the Internet, it was probably a matter of time that the society became more data-driven. But the two founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, definitely pushed this process forward like no other people could. As mentioned in the book, this probably had to do with the fact that both guys happened to be educated in Montessori schools (which encourage students to question the authority and follow one's own quest) earlier in their lives. The book provides a fair assessment of how they evolved as Google became a big company, and yet they tried to retain their original goals. Google tends to be criticized for their invasion of privacies, and I admit that I also always felt nervous about what data they were collecting and how they were using them. But after listening to this book, at least I understand their original intentions and appreciate what they have done to a large extent. I thought the book was a bit too long (nearly 20 hours) - perhaps the author could have delivered the same information with a 2/3 of the length. The narrator was very good.
This is great read on the history of Google, it's founders (Larry Page and Sergey Brin), and search technology. In the early days of the internet if you had typed in "newspaper," you would not have gotten "New York Times" or "LA Times" because they didn't have "newspaper" in its title. You had to know exactly what key words would generate the results you wanted. It's amazing to think how far search engines have come -- as you type, they predict what you want and populate key words for you. It is due to Google's extreme focus on technology and goals (speed, measurement, refinement, and openness). And there are many more amazing Google technologies that work seamlessly into our lives, which I have forgotten about -- Google Earth, Google Maps, Google Translate....
There is a lot of reference to "Googley" people and culture and the company's motto of "don't be evil." I think some readers will find it as a bias towards Google. I think it simply describes a workforce obsessively dedicated to doing what they love. For example, many might argue that Google's entry into China was a major stumble and the book doesn't place much accountability on the executives of Google. I think it was daring that Google did that. Selling technology in China is a high-risk proposition. Corruption and copyright infringements turn many companies away from China. Google had to know failure was very likely. Google took a chance to do something for the people of China. Although they censored results as required by the Chinese government, the users were informed on the page whenever results were censored. It was a small step... but an important step to reflect the value of openness -- the Chinese people were told when they weren't getting everything they wanted to see because the government was censoring it.
I love learning, teaching, and exploring!
I love Google and Google products so this book enjoyable listening for me. It was informative to learn about the ideas and people behind the products that I love to use, but also interesting to learn more about some of the controversial practices used by Google. Everything from hiring practices, to the concept of page rank, and the China decision was covered. It might come across as a little bit pro-Google to those who are not Google fans, but I didn't mind.
I found this book a very informative and educational narrative and history of Google, about which I knew little. I remember the old days of "Webcrawler" and "Excite" as primitive search-engines, and how Google emerged as the best and dominant player. The expansion of the company after that into translation, mapping, images, advertising, telephony, operating systems and Internet browsers was fascinating. Having listened to the very long book "Jobs" last year, elevating as a visionary and Captain of Industry a micro-manager who obsessed on the inside cases of his gadgets, and demeaned and humiliated his troops, and in some cases cheated them out of equity, the culture at Google couldn't be more different. It's collaborative, people are encouraged to innovate and march to their own drummer, and new thinking takes place continuously by very bright people. The author, a Wall Street Journal reporter, is slanted in favor of Google, but I learned a lot about the company and really enjoyed the book.
The dilemma Google faced when it decided to enter the Chinese market. Burdened by the company's slogan "Do Not Be Evil," it was confronted by government demands to censor its search results. As the price of doing business in China, and competing with Baidu, it capitulated. Google was excoriated for this in the press and in the halls of Congress. Later, after the Chinese government hacked into Google's email system, found communications among dissidents and arrested them, Google said "enough" and pulled out.
"Don't Be Evil"
The book lags a bit at the very end.
I started this book only mildly interested and ended with an example of how to build a new world. I could have used a lot more detail on the technical aspects of this story: page rank, server clusters, etc.; and less of the internal politics and business models. But the message which was repeated throughout this story was "change the world for the better and let the algorithms do the heavy lifting". It is almost curious that such a bunch of technonerds could make such a profound humanitarian statement, but that is Steven Levy's genius for detail as much as anything purposely done of the principals in this story. Ganser did a superb narration job. If we are lucky this will be the first volume with another installment in 20 or so years. Spolier Alert: Paleonerds will really enjoy this tale. For all others, proceed with caution.
This book is way better than "What Would Google Do". I particularly like the sections that talked about Google's data centers: the machines they use, the cooling systems, the locations, etc. Techies and non-techies will get enjoyment out of this book.
l'enfer c'est les autres
Everything I thought I knew about Google was wrong. I have a whole new understanding and, yes, an appreciation for the success of Google. Google was much more than just a good search engine. They knew how to take that product and leverage it to make money. The author really lets you feel like your inside the company and understand how they succeeded. A very fun and eye opening read.
This is not all an objective treatment. However, even with the author's reverence for the
Yes and no: it's competent but nearly hagiographic. VERY few opposing viewpoints. I would bet that Google traded access for guaranteed favorable treatment.
The author would have been well-served to leave out the Obama-centric chapters near the end of the book. They add very little and sound too much like mainstream Obama puffery: according to Levy, the President's main problem is just being too darn rational.... Yeah, right.