Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My Book Review: "Googled - The End of the World as We Know It"

Cover of "Googled: The End of the World A... Cover via AmazonI just finished Ken Auletta’s book, “Googled – The End of the World as We Know It.”  Here is a short review.

“Googled” is really two books.

First is a history of Google. This has been done before, notably in “The Google Story.” But it’s interesting to read about it a second time.

Two graduate students at Stanford come up with a better search engine. Their big idea was to include hyperlinks in the ranking of search results. (A link is where one site references another site and includes a clickable web address.) They go to work immediately, and soon Google is the biggest thing on the Internet.

An interesting point Auletta makes is that Sergey and Larry didn’t start out thinking about how to monetize a search engine. Their focus instead was on building the best search engine in the world.

Figuring out how to monetize was an afterthought. For entrepreneurs, the lesson may be to first focus on doing something exceptionally well. Now that I think about it, that’s a good lesson for everyone.

Names are important.

Google in 1998, showing the original logoImage via Wikipedia

Google is a great brand name. The original name was going to be Backrub. Not quite the same.

They also have a great logo, and their home page (see the original beta above) is famously free of clutter and advertising. This nonverbal message adds to Google’s credibility.

Is It Okay to Drop Out of Graduate School?

A lesson I drew from the book is that if you come with an idea as good as Google, it’s okay to drop out of Grad School, even if the school is Stanford. What if they had waited till they graduated to found Google? Someone else may have gotten there first. And think how much they saved on tuition!

In fact, the more I read this book the more I started to think dropping out of an elite college or Grad School is the way to go. Consider: Bill Gates (Microsoft) dropped out of Harvard, Steve Jobs (Apple) dropped out of Reed College, Michael Dell (Dell) dropped out of Texas, and Larry Ellison (Oracle) dropped out of the University of Chicago.

The second half of the book focuses on how Google is changing the world.

The answer is much, and in ways we don’t yet understand. Mr. Auletta believes old media companies (such as newspapers and network news shows) were slow to grasp the implications of the Internet and the changes it would bring. So a lesson here may be to take new technologies more seriously.

Auletta points out that today Google dominates the world of information and is poised to grow even more. Will Google soon be running the world? Not so fast. Just remember AOL, he says. It wasn’t long ago that AOL was the big Internet provider. Where are they now?

The world is changing and change happens fast, and that even applies to Google. Keeping up with it all isn’t easy, but reading the book, “Googled” is a good start.