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Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid

The Google Story

As someone who spends many hours a day immersed in the Google search engine site, to see a paperback on the Bookazine shelves called The Google Story (written by David Vise, ISBN 0-330-44005-5, Random House 2005) meant that it could not be passed up. One could almost say my search was over!

On the surface of it all, when you consider that two boffins (bright boffins, I must admit) were worth over 1 billion dollars each by the time they were 31 years old, it puts all of our own exploits in the shade.

Google was “invented” by Sergey Brin and Larry Page in 1998 and was singular by their dependence on each other, but with independence from everyone else. However, Google did not propel them to stardom overnight. As author Vise writes, “Inspiration still required plenty of perspiration.”

The first feature is that Google was not just another piece of fancy software that could pluck reference pages out of the ionosphere, or wherever all that internet information lives, but the two founders also made the necessary hardware for their own computer to work the software. They made these themselves, using standard commercially available PCs, housed in Lego blocks!

For those who have never “googled” for information and perhaps cannot see the need for such a service, author Vise states it very neatly, “In an uncertain world, Google reliably provides free information for everyone who seeks it. It is a seductive form of instant gratification for their minds.”

The book chronicles the exploits of the two university friends as they began to build up their company, using some fairly noble ideals to help them progress. “Don’t be evil” being their credo.

The concept would have failed if the two founders did not believe implicitly in what they were doing, but amazingly did not really know how to capitalize on their creation. In the early stages, they were literally borrowing money to buy more PCs to keep their hardware side of it with enough capacity, as they downloaded even more pages from the internet.

Like all “public” utilities, Google’s funding now comes from advertising, but not the crass banners that you see everywhere else. Google brought in the “Sponsored Links”, which run down the right hand side of the page. Every time you click on one, you are authorizing that company to pay revenue to Google. Enough companies made more than enough profit.

However, it didn’t stop there. Google was forced into the public arena when its shares became available to the public, forcing up its share price to where it is today, making the company worth billions. And that’s dollars, not baht, allowing it to expand over the world and into everything, even genetic research.

At B. 450, it is a fascinating read. It can hold you like a good novel, and though occasionally repetitive, does show you enough of the internal workings of the company for you to understand the working environment. Do you work for an employer who will give you 20 percent of your working time just to follow and develop your own projects? Google does.