From the Publisher
"A computer enthusiast who wants to Google Google couldn't find a more dedicated guide than Stross....Stross's access to the company pays off nicely for both Google's fans and people who read books on paper." Time
"[An] even-handed and highly readable history of the company." Wall Street Journal
"Stross tells the epic info-opera of Google simply and swiftly. He provides elegant microhistories of familiar subjects...and sprinkles just about every page with unexpected tech facts." New York magazine
"In this spellbinding behind-the-scenes look at Google, Stross provides an intimate portrait of the company's ambitious aim to 'organize the world's information.'...The narrative reads like a suspense novel." Publishers Weekly
"A vigorous history/analysis/appraisal of the 21st century's most notable company." Fortune
In this spellbinding behind-the-scenes look at Google, New York Times columnist Stross (The Microsoft Way) provides an intimate portrait of the company's massively ambitious aim to "organize the world's information." Drawing on extensive interviews with top management and the author's astonishingly open access to the famed Googleplex, Stross leads readers through Google's evolution from its humble beginnings as the decidedly nonbusiness-oriented brainchild of Stanford Ph.D. students Sergey Brin and Larry Page, through the company's early growing pains and multiple acquisitions, on to its current position as global digital behemoth. Tech lovers will devour the pages of discussion about the Algorithm; business folk will enjoy the accounts of how company after company, including Microsoft and Yahoo, underestimated Google's technology, advertising model and ability to solve problems like scanning library collections; and general readers will find the sheer scale and scope of Google's progress in just a decade astounding. The unfolding narrative of Google's journey reads like a suspense novel. Brin, Page and CEO Eric Schmidt battle competitors and struggle to emerge victorious in their quest to index all the information in the world. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Stross ("Digital Domain" columnist, New York Times; The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World) here gives us an outstanding business history of Google from its humble beginnings through the dot-com era to current times. Although the term Google often elicits good vibes from individuals of all ages, genders, and lifestyles worldwide, Stross shows how Google's current goals are not entirely altruistic. In fact, Google is a formidable business enterprise that uses its vast advertising revenues to achieve market share and to attain advantage over competitors, such as Facebook, Yahoo!, and Microsoft. Google's underlying strength lies in the proprietary software algorithm behind its search engine that becomes smarter when users click to web page results. Google is venturing in many new directions to accomplish the founders' goal of organizing the planet's information, but its initiatives are usually hit or miss, and its current emphasis is on automated processes that are easily "scalable" rather than investments that rely on human capital. Stross explains all of this in a balanced portrait, including criticisms concerning copyright, privacy, and other ethical issues. Therefore, his book is recommended for all business collections, both public and academic.
Yes, the Googleplex is trying to take over the world, but in the end this vaunted company is just as fallible as the others. In his just-the-facts account, New York Times columnist Stross (Business/San Jose State Univ.; The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World, 2007, etc.) assumes a judicious tone, avoiding the common extremes of either enthusing with childlike mania about the wonders of Google and its products, or expressing wild-eyed fear of its octopus-like reach in information gathering. This considered approach, combined with the author's relatively dry writing style, doesn't make for thrilling reading. The lack of any evident overarching thesis may also bother some readers, though perhaps not those whose knowledge of the organization doesn't extend much beyond the Web page they access daily. Stross paints a credible portrait of a company that, at least for a time, seemed poised to be the left-field candidate to supplant Microsoft as the most important technology purveyor in the world. The author comes at his subject elliptically, in chapters gathered thematically instead of chronologically, to discuss Google's brilliantly simple approach to its mammoth needs for storage capacity (lots of cheap servers networked together by themselves instead of the more expensive industry standard servers) or the paradigm-changing nature of its search software (known within the company simply as "The Algorithm"). Stross earns points by not fawning over the cuter aspects of Google culture that usually entrance journalists. Also, instead of attacking it for attempting world domination, he picks apart such missteps as the problem-plagued book-scanning program and earlymistakes with Gmail. In the end, the author suggests, the vaunted wizards of information could turn out to just be the next Microsoft. Occasionally pedestrian but always interesting take on the organization that simply wants to organize the world's information . . . all of it.