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Googled: The End of the World as We Know It

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There are companies that create waves and those that ride or are drowned by them. This is a ride on the Google wave, and the fullest account of how it formed and crashed into traditional media businesses. With unprecedented access to Google's founders and executives, as well as to those in media who are struggling to keep their heads above water, Ken Auletta reveals how the industry is being disrupted and redefined.

Auletta goes inside Google's closed-door meetings, introducing Google's notoriously private founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, as well as those who work with - and against - them. In Googled, the reader discovers the 'secret sauce' of the company's success and why the worlds of 'new' and 'old' media often communicate as if residents of different planets. It may send chills down traditionalists' spines, but it's a crucial roadmap to the future of media business: the Google story may well be the canary in the coal mine.

Googled is candid, objective and authoritative. Crucially, it's not just a history or reportage: it's ahead of the curve and unlike any other Google books, which tend to have been near-histories, somewhat starstruck, now out of date or which fail to look at the full synthesis of business and technology.

400 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2009

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About the author

Ken Auletta

19 books89 followers
Ken Auletta has written Annals of Communications columns and profiles for The New Yorker magazine since 1992. He is the author of eleven books, including five national bestsellers: Three Blind Mice: How the TV Networks Lost Their Way; Greed And Glory On Wall Street: The Fall of The House of Lehman; The Highwaymen: Warriors of the Information Super Highway; World War 3.0: Microsoft and Its Enemies; and Googled, The End of the World As We Know It, which was published in November of 2009.

Auletta has won numerous journalism honors. He has been chosen a Literary Lion by the New York Public Library, and one of the 20th Century's top 100 business journalists by a distinguished national panel of peers.

For two decades Auletta has been a national judge of the Livingston Awards for journalists under thirty-five. He has been a Trustee and member of the Executive Committee of the Public Theatre/New York Shakespeare Festival. He was a member of the Columbia Journalism School Task Force assembled by incoming college President Lee Bollinger to help reshape the curriculum. He has served as a Pulitzer Prize juror and a Trustee of the Nightingale-Bamford School. He was twice a Trustee of PEN, the international writers organization. He is a member of the New York Public Library's Emergency Committee for the Research Libraries, of the Author's Guild, PEN, and of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Auletta grew up on Coney Island in Brooklyn, where he attended public schools. He graduated with a B.S. from the State University College at Oswego, N.Y., and received an M.A. in political science from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 298 reviews
Profile Image for Brian.
638 reviews246 followers
March 18, 2011
Such an interesting company, such a terrible book

1. I thought it would be about Google.
2. I thought it would be the inside story of Google.
3. I thought it would add insight, tell us something new.

Well, no.

Auletta doesn't spend much time on the inside story of Google. Fine, I thought, maybe it'll be an insightful analysis looking at Google from the outside. Not that either. Maybe Google's competitors' perspective on Google. Okay, a little of that. But most of his time (or at least time was warped this way as I was reading it) was spent aimlessly linking quotations together from people far removed from Google in industries Google threatens. It was so little about the company itself. Yes, Ken, we get it: Google is disrupting many industries....but I felt like we were going in circles, hearing not-so-interesting comments from all sorts of people very outside Google. He used chronology as an organizational scheme, but I can't really tell the difference from chapter to chapter. It's all the same stuff, and very little Google history (or future).

Not one to quit a book easily, I persevered, hoping that his 'looking forward' section would be more interesting. No, just more Google is changing the world. Oh, and maybe Google will be weakened if advertising continues to decrease and Google can't figure out how to make YouTube profitable. Yes, that was a serious revelation. So the remainder of the book I spent finding every flaw that I could; it was much more satisfying than what I was reading.

Some highlights:
* Ken couldn't decide if Gmail was 'adjacent' (where Google spends 20% of its time) or 'anything else' (10%) to search for Google, stating that it was both...funny thing is he was supposedly quoting Brin for most of the paragraph (p. 132). Trust me, if you read the paragraph, it's ridiculously unedited.
* Ken obviously has no idea what a cookie is. He went out of his way to demonstrate this to us (see index to find examples: pick any of them).
* affect/effect (p. 290). Tsk. Tsk.
* The repetition. We learn twice that Il Fornaio "serves as a Valley canteen" and that "Larry told a Stanford class in 2002, 'If you can solve search, that means you can answer any question. Which means you can do basically anything.'" Ken, don't recycle your own words/citations.
* Apparently, the number 5,06,000 [sic] is somewhere around 5 million (p. 325).
* CPUs are "central processing computers" (p. 326).
* Artificial Intelligence is "used synonymously" with the Symantic Web (p. 327).
* Long-Term Capital Management failed because "their computer programs lacked common sense" (p. 332). Oh, that was the problem!
* Can't quite decide to call the concept "innovator's dilemma," (p. 12) "Innovator's Dilemma" (p. 294) or Innovator's Dilemma (p. 318).
* [personal favorite] In the last sentence of the book, he invents a new unit: apparently, "two dozen or so tetabits" is "about twenty-four quadrillion bits". I guess petabits wasn't working for him.

In his acknowledgments, Ken speaks of his copy editor, Susan Johnson, "who meticulously pored over every syllable" and Barry Harbough "meticulously fact checked the manuscript". First, pick a new adverb once in a while. Second, if I were they, I'd ask to have my name removed.
Profile Image for David.
865 reviews1,268 followers
February 25, 2010
I live my life on the part of the technology curve normally associated with Luddites and the Amish. Finally, after years of hectoring by my friends, I gave in and bought a cell phone. But, for the life of me, I can't remember my cell number, and I have an apparently irresistible tendency to use it to take unwitting photos of my left foot (anyone with a fetish for such photos, I'm sure there's a website for you out there). So I undertook this substantial book about google in the hope that Auletta might provide enlightenment not just about the company, but also about their position in the current information technology landscape.

By and large, he delivers. This wasn't the most enthralling non-fiction book I've read in a while, nor the best-written (let's just say charitably that Auletta's style is serviceable - forgettable, without too many direct assaults on grammar and syntax, though he does seem constitutionally incapable of avoiding the well-worn cliche). But it was entirely readable, and gave what seemed to me to be a fairly comprehensive account, in language that was understandable by even a techno-neophyte like me.

By all accounts Auletta had unprecedented access to insiders at Google, including its two boy-wonder founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. His account seems laudably neutral - one senses that, if anything, he found Page and Brin less charming as the project went on, but by and large he withholds overt judgement on the behavior of the key players, except for occasional comments about a certain naivete that permeated the company's management. These comments seem entirely justified, even reserved, given the facts.

I had two main questions before reading the book -
* How did google get to be so dominant?
* Should I (and by extension, all of us) be worried about the future?

Auletta gives a matter-of-fact answer to the first question, which turns out to be not all that interesting (basically, after tooling around for years, the company hit on a magic formula for linking the placement of ads to search results, and for charging advertisers - once this monetization scheme - google adwords - was in place, profits soared).

The second question is, of course, harder to answer - predictions being notoriously unreliable, especially where the future is concerned. The sheer amount of information that can already be collected on an individual through google searching is sobering, and data privacy initiatives in the U.S. lag well behind similar efforts in Europe and other countries. Furthermore, with initiatives like its new smart phone, Google buzz social networking app, and its commitment to launching an ultra-high-speed access internet connection in selected markets, the company has made it clear that it has no intention of ceding dominance any time soon, and that it is willing to take on major players such as Apple and Facebook.

Although Auletta is unwilling to say it in so many words, it's fairly clear that he expects the company to stumble as it faces these new challenges. Given the picture he paints, it seems almost inevitable - even companies with exceptional management teams in place would find the challenges of such extraordinarily rapid growth formidable. But the weaknesses in Google's management structure, the relative lack of structure in many cases, and their faith in technological solutions, with a blindness towards the human dimension of the problems the company faces, has already led to missteps, and is likely to continue to cause significant problems for Google.

Still, if one message comes through loud and clear from Auletta's account, it's that it would be a major mistake to underestimate what Google may yet accomplish. So, yeah, we probably should be at least a little bit worried.
Profile Image for Blog on Books.
268 reviews96 followers
March 29, 2010
Like IBM in the 60s, Microsoft in the 80s and Apple in the 90's, there are many books nowadays about the search and online behemoth known simply as Google.

Then there is Ken Auletta's.

Unlike everything that has come before it, Auletta's `Googled' is the ultimate volume by which the search giant's business will be judged - at least for now. With his unique, direct access to its founders, staff, closed-door meetings and more, Auletta has cracked open the true story (or close to it) of a company that, despite it's `Don't be evil' credo, is suspected by some as already having so much information on all of us as to have the potential of Orwellian ambitions or at least perfidious temptations. (Witness the just released Viacom vs. YouTube court documents, for example.)

As the top media critic for The New Yorker as well as the scribe behind seminal volumes on the three TV networks (`Three Blind Mice'), Microsoft and it's enemies (`World War 3.0) and others, Auletta long ago established his prowess at both getting the story right and embuing his take with the larger cultural landscape of just how his subject companies fit in and effect a broader world far beyond their walls.

'Googled' is no different. At times, Auletta uses the Mountain View-based company as a proxy for the internet as a whole as he deftly sprinkles stories of other tech and web kingpins (Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, Netscape, Andressen, Zuckerberg and others) in order to further illustrate how Sergey, Larry (and now Eric's) company fits into the broader panoply of web/tech life in the new millennium.

While many books have extolled the history of the famed search giant turned media company, only `Googled' does a comprehensive job of exploring the much deeper ambitions and implications of where the style, practice and reliance on the `algorithm' has brought them and where it may or may not eventually take them from here.

From their original Stanford/garage roots to their dealings with investors, their reluctance to bring in a CEO, their non-traditional stock IPO auction, their morph into advertising, the purchase of 757 corporate jets, the YouTube acquisition, numerous product initiatives, relations with board members like John Doerr and Al Gore, the campus culture (free meals and massages) and more, Auletta does the best job by far of capturing what has evolved into perhaps the most important company of recent years.

As far as where their ambition and technology take them (and us) and whether they can maintain their market dominant position is the subject of Auletta's closing research as well. We wont be the spoiler, except to say, A+.
Profile Image for Carrie.
232 reviews39 followers
January 3, 2010
While there wasn't much new here for those who follow tech news closely, having the full history of Google laid out in careful and comprehensive detail was useful - this book tied together so many disparate threads, news that you read in bits and pieces - allowing you to see the big picture of how the changes wrought by Google have upended the world as we know it in a number of ways.

I found it quite readable. The book is excellently sourced, with tons of interviews not only with founders Page and Brin and other top Google executives, but with other big media titan competitors. However - maybe it's a subject for another book, but I always find it lacking when authors like this don't seem to have interviewed hardly any rank-and-file employees. To me - and my training in studying organizational change and effectiveness is informing this - you can't understand a company like Google without seeing it from multiple perspectives. The bigwigs obviously have a huge impact on the organization's culture, but in many cases the values they espouse may be undermined by underlying assumptions their employees may have.

One thing I was struck by was just how early Google grasped so many things that journalists and big media companies are just now understanding. They started from the beginning with a user focus - giving people what they want, when they want it - which now is basically a mantra among Web 2.0 types.

Hopefully I'll write more on the blog.
Profile Image for Ryan Holiday.
Author 62 books12.5k followers
June 22, 2012
Maybe the best book I've read about Google and tech culture. It has made me think - despite many who are using it to herald the decline of Google - to further invest in the company. I think it's interesting how rarely writers call these businessmen out on their conflicts of interest or accurately contextualize their position. It bothers me how little real knowledge most of these tech writers have about the companies they cover.

Auletta seems to think that Google's engineering culture is problematic because it leads to PR blunders or angers competitors. The problem is really that an engineer is almost an alien compared to most people - people who think emotionally or practically instead of systematically. Robert Greene has a very good chapter about this, about knowing your audience and feeling connected to it. A product like Google Wave solves a problem that no has complained about and its launch makes sense only to someone who takes communities and groups for granted. This is what an engineering culture does to you - it deprives you of common sense and of a direct kinship with the people whom you're trying to serve.
Profile Image for Tom Schulte.
2,892 reviews56 followers
September 24, 2016
This is a nice follow-up to The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture as this has a lot of detail on how Google has used its position and immense resources after dominating Internet searching. This includes a lot of failures (Orkut, print & radio ad sales) and, at least at the time, questionable advances (book scanning, Youtube). It does seem to make a strong case that Google reaped an outside bonus for mapping the Internet and has not followed up with creating anything new, truly valuable.
Profile Image for Tj.
36 reviews6 followers
July 8, 2010
Googled begins with several chapters of interesting little known knowledge about Google--obviously a company which nearly everyone of us rely on. The book gives a unique view of the factors and figures behind and impacting our world from the technical aspect and painting a well crafted image of this in context. The book falls s short at it's close how ever when the author seems to descend in to a thesis of sorts atempting to disprove much of what he presents and becoming overtly preachy--perhaps nothing more then an old media man himself trying to protect his kind.
Profile Image for Emelie.
159 reviews50 followers
March 30, 2014
I found the writing a bit messy and difficult to follow at times. The Kindle edition wasn't properly edited. Punctuations and the like wasn't proper all times.

It was an interesting read, all in all, but it wasn't what I expected. It wasn't that heavily focused on Google, but talked about lots of other things, old media, news industry, etcetera, a lot. On the other hand it was connected with Google and their affects on the media, but still, maybe a bit too much.

But, in the end, it was an interesting insight into the technical and media world. An OK read.
Profile Image for Pritam Chattopadhyay.
1,677 reviews134 followers
January 20, 2021
The world has been Googled. We don’t hunt for info, we “Google” it.

You type a query in the Google search box, as do countless searchers globally, and in about a half second answers appear.

Want to find an episode of a web-series you missed, or a funny video made by some guy? Google’s YouTube, with ninety million unique visitors in March 2009—two-thirds of all Web video traffic—has it.

Want to place an online ad? Google’s DoubleClick is the foremost digital advertising services company.

Want to read a newspaper or magazine story from anywhere in the world? Google News aggregates twenty-five thousand news sites daily. Looking for an out-of-print book or a scholarly journal?

Google is seeking to make almost every book ever published available in digitized form. Schools in impoverished nations that are without textbooks can now retrieve knowledge for free. “The Internet,” said Google’s chief economist, Hal Varian, “makes information available. Google makes information accessible.”

This coming of age book shows you that not since Gutenberg invented the modern printing press more than 500 years ago, making books and scientific tomes affordable and widely available to the masses, has any new invention empowered individuals, and transformed access to information, as profoundly as Google.

With its flamboyant, candid logo set against a background of pure white, Google’s enchanted capability to produce immediate, appropriate rejoinders to queries hundreds of millions of times daily has changed the way people find information and stay abreast of the news. Woven into the fabric of daily life, Google has apparently overnight become indispensable. Millions of people use it daily in more than 100 languages and have come to regard Google and the Internet as one.

In Googled, Auletta identifies one fundamental, vital specific of Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the company's founders. They don't ask for permission: they do the thing they want to do, and rely on the fact that people will understand the point of it afterwards. This goes right back to the earliest days of Google.

Auletta divides his book into four parts: Part One, ‘Different Planets’ and Part Two ‘The Google Story’ tells you of the early days. Sergei Brin and Larry Page, a youthful pair who had changed the lives of millions of people by giving them free, instant access to information about any subject. And by being devilishly clever in the Internet age, they had created the best-known new brand in the world without advertising to promote the name. The two were astute businessmen, and knew that to succeed over time it was imperative that they remain in complete control of their privately owned business and its quirky culture.

The initial chapters speak of the duo’s back story and the momentous challenges they faced. The third chapter for instance, speaks of the financial challenges:

‘In early 1999, Google didn’t look like a company that would one day menace Microsoft. Aside from the one million dollars received from its four initial investors, and small amounts collected in the past half year from a handful of other angel investors like Ron Conway, Brin and Page had just a few sources of income: a twenty-thousand-dollar-per-month contract to provide specialized search results to Red Hat, a North Carolina consulting firm that advised companies using Linux and other open-source software, and the licensing of its search to several Web sites. Google had indexed only about 10 percent of the Web, and relied on a relatively primitive computer system to process search traffic that would explode from ten thousand to as many as five hundred thousand daily, each of which took three to four seconds to fetch results. To grow, Page and Brin knew their search engine had to “scale”: it had to crawl the entire Web, which would require vast computing power. … The first priority was recruiting engineers.’

Part Three entitled ‘Google versus Bears’ and Part Four demarcated as ‘Googled’ talks of the future and the infinite possibilities.

Search engines don't actually search the internet itself: if they did, the net would grind to a halt under the effect of all the searches being made. This is spectacularly true today, when Google makes three billion searches every day, but it was true even at the beginnings of the net.

What Google does instead is make a copy of the entire internet – everything they can get access to – store it on their own servers, and then index it. It is this index that Google searches. In addition, the company keeps a copy of every search ever made, which in turn speeds up subsequent searches.

The computer power involved is unimaginably huge. Google won't reveal the figures, so all we know is that it involves millions of bog-standard PCs cabled together.

The quest for immediate information on anything and everything is satisfied by “googling” it on a computer or cell phone. Men, women, and children have come to rely so heavily on Google that they cannot imagine how they ever lived without it.

Google’s transcendent and seemingly human qualities give it special appeal to an amazingly wide range of computer users, from experts to novices, who trust the brand that has become an extension of their brains. That appeal is universal, enabling it to overcome differences in culture, language, and geography en route to becoming a global favorite.

For a young firm that has not spent money to advertise or promote its brand name, these are incomparable achievements. Google’s growth has occurred entirely by word of mouth, as satisfied users recommend it to their friends, and others learn about it through the media and online. Instead, people have come to feel emotionally attached to the search engine, calling on it whenever they wish to satisfy their interest or curiosity. 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.

Google’s ‘would-be’ appears to be greater than that of iconic companies that have preceded it.

Over the decades, a series of technologies have swept across the landscape, each wave larger than the one that came before. IBM and mainframes solved the data-processing problem for corporations decades ago.

Then came Intel and Microsoft, both of which made enormous contributions to the personal computer and gave individuals a new source of power, ultimately catapulting the PC industry to greater penetration and profitability than the mainframe industry. Now the Internet, originally a Defense Department project, has emerged as the platform of choice, vaulting Amazon, Yahoo, eBay, and Google to the forefront.

Among the icons distinctive to this wave, none is riding higher than Google, the only new megabrand created among Internet firms in the past decade. The company’s stock is a bellwether of investor confidence in the future of the Internet and the particular business model Google has created to capture targeted advertising dollars.

Two of the most compelling areas that Google and its founders are quietly working on are the promising fields of 1) molecular biology and 2) genetics. Millions of genes in combination with massive amounts of biological and scientific data are an excellent match for the Google search engine, the tremendous database the company has in place, and its immense computing power.

Already, Google has downloaded a map of the human genome and is working closely with biologist Dr. Craig Venter and other leaders in genetics on scientific projects that may lead to important breakthroughs in science, medicine, and health. In other words, we may be heading toward a time when people can google their own genes.

“This is the ultimate intersection of technology and health that will empower millions of individuals,” Venter said. “They have the most computing power of any enterprise. The scale they deal with is far beyond what the government databases are now. Helping people understand their own genetic code and statistical code is something that should be broadly available through a service like Google within a decade.”

To quote The Guardian, “Google is often written about as a ra-ra success story, but Googled is a surprisingly downbeat book. Auletta looks at the company in its pomp, and sees problems and threats everywhere. At one point in 2008, Google was offering 150 products. Only one – targeted advertising – made real money. Some of them cost a huge amount: YouTube, for instance, lost $500m in 2009. For most companies, half a billion dollars is quite a lot to lose – and that hasn't been Google's only problem. The two hottest things on the net over the past few years, Facebook and Twitter, have both been social-networking sites – a trend that Google missed. The company's activities in China, and its public agonising about them, made them look as if they put profits above ethics, but wanted to be admired for feeling uncomfortable about the fact.”
419 reviews3 followers
January 1, 2018
This was a lot more insightful than I thought it would be. I knew that google did not always exist, but I just couldn’t get my head around that. I also really liked the words that he used, I learned what maladroit meant and a bunch of others. This was a slow read, and some numbers are outdated, but otherwise it was really good. I thought the story of the other companies riding or drowning in the “wave” that google was creating was helpful but he used it a lot. My favorite part was about the ostrich feathers and automobiles. It was the funniest, in my opinion.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Bojan Tunguz.
407 reviews141 followers
June 24, 2011
I have read several books about Google over the years, and this one is certainly the best written of them all. This is not surprising - Ken Auletta is a writer, journalist and media critic for The New Yorker. His writing is of an exceptionally high quality and a pleasure to read. The book is also very well researched, with first-hand accounts from many of the key players at Google and other companies that prominently feature in this story. Many of the stories about Google's early years have been written about before in other books and articles, but there are also a substantial number of new, untold accounts. In particular, we get a better idea of who were the important early investors in Google and the order in which they supported the fledgling company. Several not-so-famous high-level operatives are profiled who had a substantial influence on Google's development. However, even though these profiles are not the typical puff-pieces that have come to dominate the popular business press, they are not all that critical and candid either. From the point of view of writing an interesting story this is somewhat to be expected. The triumvirate that runs Google despite their incredible business success is composed of three very geeky individuals that don't necessarily have the most exciting personalities. On the other hand certain other highly visible members of the Google hierarchy perform rather obscure functions in the company that are hard to get too excited about from the outsider's point of view. None of the books about Google that have come out so far provide us with the intriguing stories of what is really going on inside Google - clashing personalities, conflicting projects, dazzling new ideas, development dead ends, etc. This is particularly noticeable when comparing books about Google to books about some other prominent technology companies - Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, etc. Apple in particular, even though infamous for the level of secrecy, has enjoyed a spate of recent books and articles that reveal much more about its product development and internal affairs than any one of the books about Google that are out there.

There are a couple more weaknesses of this book from the point of view of content. Google is a company that prides itself above all on its technology, and yet you will find very little in terms of technological details in this book. Even if you are not someone who is intrigued by technology, it would be important to read about some more prominent technological aspects of Google, at least in order to put Google's success in context. Most technology companies don't succeed, and this is particularly true of search engines, and it would be important to understand what are the technical advantages that Google has that keep it so well ahead of all of its competitors.

The other big problem that I had with this book is that it provides an inordinate amount of space to other companies and business developments in recent years. In particular, Auletta seems to be very fascinated with the media business and the rapid changes that have been happening to it in recent few years. For instance, the newspaper industry is going through what could be the greatest evolution in its history, and this book tries to give this change a perspective. Google and other internet companies are the key players in this transformation, and it is important to understand how newspapers and Google are influencing each other. However, Auletta doesn't seem to be able to strike the right balance and he dedicates more coverage to the industry that he is undoubtedly more familiar with - newspapers.

Overall, despite its flaws, this is very interesting book to read as long as you don't expect to learn too much about Google proper.
10 reviews
March 6, 2010
I saw this at the bookstore after I had decided to accept a job at Google and figured I'd give it a shot. Ken Auletta was given an enormous amount of access to Google and its executives over a period of years, so this book has a nice amount of insight from the people at the middle of it all and some behind the scenes stories I hadn't heard before. It is also an honest accounting of Google's effect on various industries, instead of being overwhelmingly positive or negative. The book was only published a few months ago, but it's amazing how much has happened since then that feels like it is missing from this book (Buzz, several acquisitions, Android progress and especially Nexus One, ...). I probably wouldn't recommend it to very many people, but I found it very interesting on the eve of my new job.
Profile Image for Maryann.
115 reviews
August 31, 2011
Excellent overview of this history of Google and all the major changes we've seen in many industries because of it. Everything from music, tv, books, phone service, mobile platforms. I loved going over all the details of the digital revolution. Very nice portrayal of the facts both the good and the bad on the journey to where they are today. There were so many major shifts over the last 15 years and until it is aggregated you forgot all the major changes and many of the conveniences we take for granted today. Certainly not an edge of your seat kind of book, but I really enjoyed reviewing recent history and understanding the backgrounds of the major players.
Profile Image for Chris.
1,350 reviews32 followers
November 30, 2009
This book starts out well but became a little tedious towards the end. It's best when it discusses Google the company and drifts towards the end when it discusses the future not of just Google but of media and advertising. I found it quite objective on Google and not one-sided. Strangely, I'm not so enamored with them anymore. You have to admire their innovation and creativity but the engineer hubris that looks at information, etc solely from efficiency without any crosscheck on social context or usage seems ready to take a fall.
Profile Image for Daniel M..
Author 1 book27 followers
February 12, 2011
A pretty decent history of how Google got to be where it is now. Not sure I picked up any particular insights, it just fleshed out a good deal of what I already know. The book DOES have a good deal of coverage of the media markets and how they’re changing over time (and Google’s not-completely-innocent role in changing the market). Eric Schmidt comes across as plain-spoken, Sergey and Larry as fairly nerdly, and the company as large and slightly chaotic… which seems about right from my point-of-view...
Profile Image for ^.
907 reviews58 followers
January 20, 2015
I thought I’d really enjoy this book; but instead found it dead boring. It simply doesn’t come to life, despite The Times apparently hailing it as ‘Brilliant’. Auletta may very well be a half-decent journalist, and a conscientious reporter, but I’d not recommend this book to someone who wants a really good read, rather than just the facts.

I gave up at about a third of the way through. There again, as this was a cheap, charity (thrift) shop find, I have at least done some good myself.

Disappointing. Printed in a ridiculously tiny font too! Grrr.
Profile Image for Sotiris Makrygiannis.
498 reviews40 followers
June 12, 2016
Good corporate overview from 1997 to 2007. I want to see the update on the last decade. if you pay attention it explains the hidden strategy of bringing Google services to the market. a good work BUT think about the last chapters on lawyers review, founders review and make your own conclusion if it's softly biased.
18 reviews
January 2, 2021
I was disappointed. After 500 pages, I could still not say what made Google tick... what made it different from other companies that preceded it. Very poor about products, governance, culture, etc. Too focused on the typical hype of 'change the world' or 'internet impact on newspapers'.
\nAlso, do not touch the Brazilian Portuguese translation.. it is a pain...
December 6, 2009
Loved this book. Great story of the birth and growth of Google. Especially helpful to a digital immigrant such as myself in explaining the latest developments in tech world and putting them in context
Profile Image for Nick.
Author 27 books53.3k followers
May 24, 2011
Hugely useful and interesting biography of Google. Revealing and intriguing.
935 reviews7 followers
June 17, 2020
Last month I read Googled: The End of the World as We Know It by Ken Auletta. Over the course of the book, Auletta documents the history of Google from its inception merely as a search tool relying on server space granted by Stanford to the multibillion dollar company we know today that been integral in the upset of traditional media and business models while significantly mediating the way that we interact with the internet and digital media. Auletta's final conclusion is more of a cautious accolade of the company started by Sergey Brin and Larry Page. Although Google's motto of 'don't be evil' ostensibly guides the company's business developments, Auletta performs an admirable job of teasing our where that model and the inevitable consequences of an impassioned quest to catalogue and index all human knowledge might sit more in a state of tension than harmony. Because of Google's monolithic place in our everyday use of the internet and digital resources, this book directly relates to any CTEP Americorps member's experience because it is likely that this company has (or will) have an increasing determining element on digital access. Digital inclusion is just as much about the ability to use and interact with digital information as it is to have access to it and Google is currently one of the largest controlling factors of that usability and access. I would highly recommend this book to any CTEP member interested in learning about one of the largest and most controversial technology companies in the world today. Auletta's strong use of anecdotes and a loose historical narrative structure keep the book from being dragged down by its own hefty amount of information and the considerably large amount of time spent examining Google's effects on other industries helps to present a larger picture than a simple one-sided report.
Profile Image for Timeo Williams.
249 reviews6 followers
November 18, 2020
Despite the fact that this is book is dated by about a decade, it still remains relevant.

In Googled, Auletta goes into detail about the story behind Google, the idea, its early growth, and its post-adolescence stage. It was interesting getting a feel for how this company managed itself. After all, much talk of how cool the perks of working for a Silicon Valley company come from Google, with its free food and 20% project time philosophies.

- I also enjoyed how the CEO role was somewhat split between Eric, Larry, and Sergey in a unique way, with Eric administering discipline to the workforce and Larry and Sergey bouncing against it, on occasion.

The book goes on to detail some topics that are very important today. Something as innocuous as your searches. Have you ever considered that by searching the term lung cancer, your health insurance premiums may go up?

Or that the amount of time spent you spend looking at a photo, is being used in calculations to get a feel for your own quirks and interests -to how you're wired?

Tough questions. Especially because of how user intuitive and free much of Google's software is. However, as the book discusses, anytime too much trust is given to any organization, in this case, a for-profit business, we leave ourselves in a very bad negotiating position.
1 review
March 17, 2017
Ken Auletta did an amazing job with Googled. At first it was slow, but soon grabs your attention with what goes on behind the scenes in Google. Not only does it provide insight on Google but you learn more about the ups and downs the company had. This even includes the ideas they made into reality, but were at first thought to be a little risky or completely outrageous. Nonetheless, one learns a lot about the company that ranges from the discussion of the "delete button" on gmail to the so-called "cold war" they had with Microsoft. It is simply a book that shows bits and pieces of how this company began to shift so many aspects of our lives when it was first forming and how it still continues to affect us today with new technology.
Profile Image for Lauren.
737 reviews33 followers
September 21, 2021
I really enjoyed this book.

The journey here: I just watched the documentary on Theranos with my daughter, and Ken Auletta is interviewed in it. New Yorker writer, clearly smart and articulate. I researched him and saw he'd written a book on Google. I had never read one! Back in the day I was like, "Why would I need to read a book on it? I was there!" But actually all these years later it brings back memories, helps me make sense of things I was too young (and too junior in the company) to understand, AND catches me up on the past 15 years since I left.

The book worked for me but it's very personal why it worked for me. So I can't say how appealing it would be to other people. Genuinely can't say.
111 reviews
May 11, 2021
You can change the system. You can’t change the user. Messing with the Magic will wake the bear. Engineer thinking means we are going to make mistakes based on facts and data and analysis. Google rocketed high on word sense and Adwords. The cost of precision in answering your query is invasiveness. Platforms have become the new location. From medial conglomerates that controlled your view to the Internet making your media interactive, is it a Brave New World? Your smartphone has become your own personal remote control and someone else’s CCTV?
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Mark.
13 reviews2 followers
February 26, 2010
The other day I heard on the radio that a new company called Nozzl will offer automated news feeds for the Web sites of newspapers and magazines. The feeds are automated in the sense that Nozzl will electronically collect announcements from government agencies, notices of real estate auctions and other local bits of information and run them through the feed without benefit of any human intervention. No journalist will choose which information is most relevant or otherwise edit the notices. It's another chip at the foundation of traditional journalism, but a relatively small one compared to all that's happened lately.

In a way, Google represents another and serious challenge to traditional media, for it's Google that makes all the information on the Web accessible. Other search engines that preceded Google cluttered up their pages with all sorts of advertising come-ons and extraneous content. These search engines also tried to keep users from leaving their pages. Brin and Page, the celebrated Google founders, took accessibility as their watchword. So Google continues its emphasis on making its service as user-friendly as possible. There's no advertising on the home page to distract or confuse users. Sophisticated algorithms calculate the relevance of each page, and modify the calculations for each user, so that the pages are presented ranked by relevance as much as possible. Most importantly, the rank of the pages is never for sale. The pages that pop up as paid ads are clearly shaded to demarcate them from output of the algorithm.

Ken Auletta, the author of "Googled," seems to think that such practices are hard to fathom. He makes much of the lack of business experience of Google's founders, and sets them up as the alien beings who have disrupted traditional media by not being solely or even primarily interested in profit. Should we share in his surprise? Possibly. There is more than a little irony in engineers beating marketers at the advertising game. Along the way one learns a lot about new media---enough to realize that a lot of it is old media in drag and that the vast majority of it is exploiting only one aspect of the Internet.

The Internet excels at making the information in data bases accessible. And what's more remarkable is that data base-backed Web site operators can get their users to build the data bases for them. So Facebook attracts people to the prospect of building themselves into a network of friends. The users exploit the data, but more importantly, they create the content. So that's new media, or most of it, and in concept anyway, the technology is no more sophisticated that a relational data base.

In contrast to these moderately novel applications, Page and Brin created and exploited a truly innovative part of Web infrastructure. Instead of making one data base accessible, they made the entire Web accessible. Their fundamental technological advancement was an algorithm, PageRank, that determined the importance of a Web page by considering in part how many other pages linked to it. (By the way, it's not Web page rank, but Page as in Larry Page.) Google's bots prowl the Web, collecting the data that determine PageRank. So the value of the content on a page, its relevance to anyone who might be looking for information, is determined by what the world thinks if that information. It's democracy in action, with no arbiter of what's good or not. There's probably a very interesting story about the algorithm. As an erstwhile mathematician, I can just imagine (but alas not solve) some of the recursive obstacles Page and Brin might have had to overcome. Unfortunately, that story, the only instance of innovation described, is not told in any detail in the book.

Auletta, who writes about media for the New Yorker, seemingly covers every company that Google ever had as a client, or competed against, or acquired, or was sued by and all of the personalities associated with them. You need stamina to read this book, which covers only about seven years in its 336 pages. There are many interesting moments, especially regarding some of Google's more audacious moves. Some of these, like Google's intention of scanning the world's books, really illustrate the big thinking and gee-whiz factor that only engineers and scientists seem able to do. Of course, such exploits are only now making their way through the courts. (Is the amazing thing about Google that its existence is the good deed that has gone unpunished?)

You may also learn little tidbits you had forgotten or always wondered about. Remember the browser NetScape? The one that was crushed when Internet Explorer started to ship with the Windows operating system? You'll find out what happened to Marc Andreeson, and how NetScape became Firefox.

But that's about it when it comes to this book. Auletta cpvers brand building, advertising and marketing. He replays the politics of who's successful at who's expense instead of explaining deeper ideas, like the Google algorithms that make the Web such a handy tool. Even though Auletta seems mystified by Google's victories over more traditional, self interested media players, his book almost reluctantly tells how well intentioned deep thinkers made the world a better place.
71 reviews1 follower
January 22, 2020
Very interesting book about the creation of Google. Ken Auletta writes well and keeps it interesting, avoiding too much technical jargon. Very perceptive on a number of issues that are front and center today. The book was written almost 10 years ago so, while interesting, it's now somewhat dated, and a lot has happened in the tech world since he wrote it.
26 reviews8 followers
February 12, 2020
I just might read this book again! Interesting how some things worked out for this bunch of people who were not exactly focused on business/money but on providing an excellent search engine. I guess not being too dependent on the business to feed them helped
Pretty impressed with the Google story and will read this book again as I really enjoyed it
December 12, 2022
This book was written more than 12 years ago but it still was an interesting read to discover how some Google ventures, new at the time, failed or succeeded wildly. Well written and easy to understand. Personally, I think social media portends “the end of the world as we know it,” but Google’s reach is disconcerting and too long for the common good.
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