The Google Guys
An organization by the name of Google founded in 1998 by two Stanford University computer science graduate students (Larry Page and Sergey Brin), which now has more than 20,000 workers and operates search engines in 70 languages, has changed the world of Internet forever. It would not be an exaggeration, nay, it would be the truth to say that Google is the most intellectual, fast, reliable, impartial, multifaceted and updated librarian the world has known hitherto. Undoubtedly, if Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and James Watt spurred the Industrial Revolution, then Larry and Sergey started the Information Revolution.
The superlative book under review is a mesmerizing odyssey of 12 enthralling and compelling chapters besides the Introduction and Afterword. The Introduction sets the tone of the book in 17 pages. In spite of the title, this work is more about an organization history than about the lives of Page and Brin. Brandt does not describe the duo in details, but shows interviews with many former and current workers, resulting in a fascinating overview of how the organization has grown. Readers do get an insight into their goals and motivations but it is not well analyzed. It gives a brief look into the lives of Larry and Sergey, their working style and a few facts related to Chrome (Googles new browser), GooglePack (group of applications that can be downloaded for free) and Googles decision of gaining entry into China.
The book has a consistent approach throughout. Each chapter begins with a meaningful quotation (sometimes quotations), then contains information in a chronological sequence and has several takeaways . In some places, information is presented in shaded boxes, which normally pertains to the Library at Alexandria. There are no loose threads in the book, which implies that a reader will not be distracted by any unimportant information. The first chapter provides glimpses into the lives of the parents of the two protagonists of the book and details the early years of Larry and Sergey and a few of their childhood feats, which proves beyond doubt that both were prodigies from their first days. The beginning of the second chapter tells that Larry took advantage of the interconnected properties of the Internet for creating a search engine. Then, the chapter describes the efforts of Sergey in developing a crawler program and how the duo (Larry and Sergey) formed a combination. The third chapter delves into the measures adopted by Larry and Sergey to build a scientific and technological playground and a culture of creativity at Google. The fourth chapter examines how the strategies followed by Larry and Sergey helped them in attaining a top position, although they never followed the typical dot-com strategy. The chapter provides brilliant instances of Google listening to the wants of the customers or users and understanding prospective employees.
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The fifth chapter dissects Googles allegiance and dedication to clean advertising. The sixth chapter is devoted to Googles public stock offering in 2004, which was supposed to be, but was not, a landmark event of the lustrum, and which earned sound criticism from the press. The seventh chapter reveals the fact that Google is operating in several countries that have completely different ideologies related to freedom of speech. The chapter offers brilliant examples of problems that arose due to the censorship rules prevailing in Germany, United States, Thailand, Turkey and China. The eighth chapter deals with privacy issues, i.e., with keeping users personal information confidential. Privacy is of paramount importance because Google collects enormous amount of data and volumes of information about the people who use its services. Collection of information is done by the computers at Google without any human intervention, but even then, there is always the danger of leakage of information due to hackers and government subpoenas. The ninth chapter meticulously dissects the painstaking efforts made by Larry and his team towards building an electronic library of books. It also details the controversies that Google ran into because of their book-digitization endeavor. The tenth chapter provides an overview of the complexities that Google faces because it bought YouTube (leading supplier of online video), and Picasa (a picture-sharing site). It also delves into Googles forays into the domain of cloud computing and a supposedly secret project within Google code-named Platypus. The eleventh chapter is devoted to the telco war (telecom munications war) with many telecom giants pitted against one another. The twelfth chapter delves into the philanthropic arm of Google. It also discusses Project Virgle aimed at establishing the first permanent human colony on the planet Mars.
The author compares the organization's aim to the aim of the creators of the Library at Alexandria, giving short descriptions in the first chapters. The analogy seems to be rather weak because the Library was intended to be a warehouse of the greatest books on the planet, while Google's search engines give entry to all the information on the Internet, whether it is good, bad or insignificant. It would have been to a greater extent inappropriate if the book went on as one of the products developed or acquired expanded .
The book says that the Great Library of Alexandria, created by Ptolemy I, a childhood friend of Alexander the Great, circa 300 B.C., was the worlds first great library. However, the truth is that the Royal Library of Ashurbanipal was created much earlier than the Great Library of Alexandria. Nonetheless, analogies drawn with the Great Library of Alexandria serve their purpose well. Dramatis personae should have been provided at the beginning of the book as it would help a reader identify the characters, and thereby gain a deeper understanding of the book. The book will do a reader considerable good since he/she will get to know such terms and concepts as Science Citation Index, data mining, Dewey decimal system, venture capitalist, initial public offering, red herring and others as these terms are discussed in the book. The book also does a good job discussing technical jargon, such as IRCs, MUDs, crawler programs, which is bound to sustain the readers interest and increase his/her knowledge. Such outstanding people as William Henry (Bill) Gates III, Steve Jobs, Larry Page and Sergey Brin have etched their names with indelible ink on the firmament of technology and changed the way the world works and businesses operate in innumerable ways ad infinitum.
The Google Guys is a beautifully written masterpiece , which will definitely enrich readers in many ways. The book lays bare the dirty secret of Silicon Valley, and it will be a boon to those who are engaged in creativity, innovation, advertising, strategic management, change management, co-branding, data analytics, business ethics, corporate social responsibility, mergers and acquisitions. Google has not been involved in corporate scandals, stock scandals or accounting frauds. The book anatomizes the DNA of Google, which has made it a colossus in the list of innovative companies. The book provides cues at certain places, with the help of which a researcher can frame several hypotheses to conduct path-breaking research. Google's strengths and weaknesses are well described and discovered in a balanced way, providing equal space for criticism and praise. The author also gives some perceptive comparisons to such rivals as Microsoft and Apple. A reader expecting biographies will be saddened, though the book accomplishes the remit of describing an organization history quite effectively.