Book Review: The Google Story by David A. Vise
It didn’t take long to get through “The Google Story”, by David A. Vise with Mark Malseed and this has to be one of the most interesting books I have read in quite some time – so much so I have already read it twice. The version of the book I have is the updated version of the 2005 edition but there is also an updated version for Google’s 10th Birthday.
We all use Google every day, it is part of our modern culture, but where did it all begin and how did it become the global power house we know it is today? This book goes a long way to answering these questions as it chronicles the real story behind Google – and it’s not all about search engines. In the 326 pages of this book, set across 26 chapters, it starts right at the beginning of the Google Story and moves at a fascinating pace explaining how Sergey Brin and Larry Page had the vision of Google whilst they were Ph.D. students at Stanford University. It goes on to explain the story behind Eric Schmidt, and many of the other loyal team members who helped build Google from very humble beginnings.
The eight pages of photographs in the middle of the book give a real insight into the early days of Google – it’s good to see they had the same sort of rack based cabling issues that I experience even today. An Appendix contains a list of 23 Google Search Tips such as how to use the Google Search box as a calculator. Also, the GLAT, or Google Labs Aptitude Test, for evaluating potential new recruits is a fun insight into how Google clearly look for “out of the box” thinkers. For example, one of the questions asks “Find through a cooler bijection, where you show a knack uncanny…” – I’ll stop there – I think you get the picture. You can see the entire GLAT on the supporting website for The Google Story.
The story behind Marissa Mayer, in Chapter 6, is fascinating as it focuses on the now iconic Google homepage, in true minimalist style, and how Google perceived this as being critical to ensure return visits. On the surface simple changes such as a font or a change in the number of words might seem insignificant but we learn, and so did Marissa, that even the simplest change can have the biggest impact.
The Google Story finishes up with a look ahead at the longer term plans driving Google’s expansion which involve utilising their vast data storage and crunching facilities to the areas of biology and genetics, perhaps even work on trying to unlock the secrets of the human brain. Imagine not having to remember anything anymore and simply look information up, as it is needed, with your Google brain filter.
The technology landscape has moved on quite rapidly over the last few years so it would be great to see a more recently updated version of The Google Story to include events between 2007 to 2009 but for a real in depth, yet readable, insight into the origins of a true Internet pioneer this is a fascinating book.