[2007-05-21] “The Search”

“The Search” is a book by John Battelle that seeks to explain “How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture”. The book highlights how searching for something or someone on the Internet is becoming such an integral part of our lives and how companies are trying to profit from this opportunity.

The book starts off rather badly with unnecessary verbiage comprising the author's pontification on the importance of search, the contribution of the combined search histories of Internet users towards creating a “Database of Intentions” that essentially represents what the world is looking for at a given point in time, the immense value of such a database and the great responsibility that rests with a company like Google that has such data. I have a feeling that the author could have easily made the same point using an order of magnitude fewer pages. Ditto for the final quarter of the book, which I found to be an even bigger pain to read through.

Sandwiched between these is the interesting story of the rise and the fall of the early search engines like WebCrawler, AltaVista, etc. and the creation of Overture, Yahoo and Google. However, the bulk of this book is devoted to the creation of Google, its early days, its struggle with its IPO, the praise and the criticisms that it has been receiving, etc. The author deserves praise for presenting a balanced view of Google. I was a bit surprised that he didn't find anything repulsive about Overture's method of sneaking in paid links among genuine search results that are hard to discern for normal users. One of the things that irritated me was that the footnotes for each page were moved to a separate “Notes” section at the end of the book, rather than at the bottom of the page, which made it a bit difficult to read the chapters, as I had to keep flipping back and forth.

If you have been using the Internet for some time and have even a bit of intelligence, there is nothing terribly insightful or new in this book.

Other Posts from 2007