The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture by John Battelle


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  • Pub. Date: September 2005
  • 320pp
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    Product Details

    • Pub. Date: September 2005
    • Publisher:Penguin Group (USA)
    • Format: Hardcover, 320pp


    What does the world want? According to John Battelle, a company that answers that question-in all its shades of meaning-can unlock the most intractable riddles of business and arguably of human culture itself. And for the past few years, that's exactly what Google has been doing.

    Jumping into the game long after Yahoo, Alta Vista, Excite, Lycos, and other pioneers, Google offered a radical new approach to search, redefined the idea of viral marketing, survived the dot-com crash, and pulled off the largest and most talked-about initial public offering in the history of Silicon Valley.

    But The Search offers much more than the inside story of Google's triumph. It's also a big-picture book about the past, present, and future of search technology and the enormous impact it's starting to have on marketing, media, pop culture, dating, job hunting, international law, civil liberties, and just about every other sphere of human interest.

    More than any of its rivals, Google has become the gateway to instant knowledge. Hundreds of millions of people use it to satisfy their wants, needs, fears, and obsessions, creating an enormous artifact that Battelle calls the Database of Intentions. Somewhere in Google's archives, for instance, you can find the agonized research of a gay man with AIDS, the silent plotting of a would-be bomb maker, and the anxiety of a woman checking out her blind date. Combined with the databases of thousands of other search-driven businesses, large and small, it all adds up to a gold mine of information that powerful organizations (including the government) will want to get their hands on.

    No one is better qualified to explain this entire phenomenon than Battelle, who cofounded Wired and founded The Industry Standard. Perhaps more than any other journalist, Battelle has devoted his career to finding the holy grail of technology-something as transformational as the Macintosh was in the mid-1980s. And he has finally found it in search.

    Battelle draws on more than 350 interviews with major players from Silicon Valley to Seattle to Wall Street, including Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and CEO Eric Schmidt, as well as competitors like Louis Monier, who invented Alta Vista, and Neil Moncrief, a soft-spoken Georgian whose business Google built, destroyed, and built again. Battelle lucidly reveals how search technology actually works, explores the amazing power of targeted advertising, and reports on the frenzy of the Google IPO, when the company tried to rewrite the rules of Wall Street and declared Don't Be Evil to be its corporate motto.

    For anyone who wants to understand how Google really succeeded-and the implications of a world in which every click can be preserved forever-The Search is an eye-opening and indispensable read.

    Library Journal

    Wired cofounder and Industry Standard founder Battelle has written a history of the search engine giant Google that attempts to place the phenomenon of Internet searching within the broader context of society and culture. If the "Database of Intentions" sounds like a kind of high-tech holy grail, you're getting warm. This is Battelle's terminology for the totality of Internet searching that reveals to us as a culture (not to mention to marketers) who we are and how we think and feel. The tale of Google's humble beginnings in a Stanford dorm room and eventual domination of the search landscape is an interesting enough story in itself. But it becomes fascinating against the backdrop of geeky entrepreneurs and their fledgling companies waging battles of ideas and ideals. Along the way, Battelle skillfully examines ethical and political issues of search-personal privacy being a big one. The implications of search as a cultural marker and what its future might hold make this a thought-provoking work with relevance beyond business and technology. Recommended for public and academic library business collections.-Carol J. Elsen, Univ. of Wisconsin, Whitewater Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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    John Battelle is a cofounding editor of Wired and the founder of The Industry Standard, as well as He is currently program chair for the Web 2.0 conference, a columnist for Business 2.0, and the founder, chairman, and publisher of Federated Media Publishing, Inc.

    Customer Reviews

    An interesting book but Tunguz

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    January 24, 2011: I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It was well written and provided enough information to keep me glued to it. However, I was really hoping to find out more about Google than what would be possible from Google's own PR machine. The early search engine history and the development of that technology is probably the more fascinating part of the book. Which is ironic, since the book is supposed to be primarily about Google. My guess is that the author sacrificed the ability to write about more intriguing and behind the scenes happenings at Google for the almost unlimited access to the founders and the top managers.

    Overall, this is a pretty good book, but a hard-nosed investigative reporter would probably have come up with more intriguing content.

    A book that is, and isn' GamaClone

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    October 13, 2010: The Search was recommended to me from a colleague and I was excited to find it still in circulation at my B&N. While an interesting topic, the author promises that this book is not a history of Google, when in fact, that's exactly what it is. From the early days in a dorm room, to the hiring practices and personalities of the creators, there isn't much in the way of the quote on the cover. True, it does discuss the rivalries of Yahoo and AOL, and how they all circle each other, with some losing and some winning, there's not as much an answer to 'what is search' as is ' what is google doing differently than everyone else'. perhaps the book was ahead of it's time (Google bought YouTube months after the books release). There are tidbits of information that are insightful (What does RSS stand for? YaHoo is an acronym?) and the theory as to what the internet itself actually is was an interesting paragraph, though these are few and far between. The last quarter of the book is repetitive, and became a chore to finish. The book now rests on a library shelf somewhere, waiting for it's next victim.

    I Also Recommend: Blink, The Science of God, Why Things Break.

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