Review: The Google Story–Inside the Hottest Business, Media, and Technology Success of Our Time

4 Star, Information Society, Information Technology

GoogleUseful Insights, Not the Whole Story,

March 2, 2007

David A. Vise

EDIT 10 Dec 07 to point to “Google 2.0: The Calculating Predator.” Costs $675 for an online copy, causes panic behind the scenes on Wall Street. Google for my review book review by the same title.

This book is as close to the “authorized biography” as one can get. Engineers and investors and competitors should go instead to “The Google Legacy” by Stephen E. Arnold, sold only by Infonortics UK (online). End users and third party developers are better off with any of the 50+ other books that focus on penetration testing, analytics, Google Earth, etcetera.

The book purports to be a revelation of secrets, but that is simply not true. This is a compilation of what anyone could have put together from enough coffee house conversations.

What jumps out at me is Google’s potentially crippling addiction to advertising revenue, its failure to offer sense-making and visualization, and its extraordinary good luck in being able to draw the best talent from NASA, Microsoft, Bell Labs, etc.

I am impressed by what Google is doing in becoming a multi-lingual service, and eager to see when they can start offering multi-lingual search with translation on demand for micro-cash.

There is no denying the brilliance of the founders in using links as a form of citation analysis, but as anyone who has compared the results from a professional set of sites via Deep Web Technologies, with a Google search, the former is 10 to 1000 times better on any given serious topic.

The book is useful for insights into the founders, and especially Larry Page. One learns of his interest in transportation analytics, and in molecular biology and genetics.

I was surprised to learn that Jeff Bezos helped the founders in the beginning, but now I have the impression that Google does not play well with others, even those that helped them get started, and that is a shame.

“The Google Legacy” does a much better job on the technical strengths of Google (see also the briefing by Stephen E. Arnold in the Archives at OSS.Net), but this books does note the strength of Google in combining software innovation with scalable economic hardware.

Anecdotes include how Google Doodles emerged, the early use of focus groups, and the hiring of a brain surgeon to be the network manager. There is adequate mention of the 20% free play rule, but insufficient discussion what has emerged from that.

On page 143 the author, no doubt misled by whoever he interviewed, claims that “CIA agents use Google to track terrorist groups.” Baloney. Google has a “secret” relationship with CIA (the Office of Research & Development), and a test was done that produced a handful of “hits” all of which were worthless and most of which were severely dated.

Gmail foundered on privacy issues, as did Google’s desktop search. The author is incorrect when he says that Google has added sufficient security. The fact is that the US Government is still finding restricted documents leaking out whenever they install Google Enterprise. I for one would never trust Google on my small business machines.

The author describes the division of responsibility among the founders and the CEO: Eric is operations and finance; Serge is policy, politics, and people; Larry is hiring, priorities, and physical space.

While the author describes the Google digital library projects, he fails to satisfy. .

Google’s idea for satisfying publishers by using the content only to entice the reader to buy the book is either idiocy, or a subterfuge. Presumably Google knows that synthetic information is free of copyright, but they seem loath to take the easy step of offering footnotes or micro-text extracts for micro-cash. In this regard, they really should be merging with Amazon and the Internet Archive (Brewster Kahle) to create a world library that can be translated into all languages on demand, given for free to the five billion poor, and monetized by using Doug Englebart’s Open Hypertextdocument System (OHS).

The book ends with a few pages of “tips” on how to use Google that are nowhere as good as Nancy Blachman et all “How to Do Everything with Google,” or Arno Reuser’s briefing at OSS.Net on the open source intelligence system of the future.

I end the book with a small diagram that is NOT in the book, it is my own intellectual property, but it is a useful means of evaluating why Google is not as good as it could be. On a compass, SEARCH is West; SENSE-MAKING is North, SHARE is East, and Saving the World is SOUTH. Google sucks at three of the four, and that may be their epitaph.

I asked a very smart person why Google does not play well with others and is so slow to reach out (see the two images I have loaded to the book on Wikinomics) and he had a direct answer based on direct experience with the founders: “Young guys who made their first 100 million on their own ideas are not really interested in ‘not invented here.'” That’s a real shame. If Google were to focus on rapidly offering the eighteen desktop functions that were defined by CIA in 1986 (CATALYST, see OSS.Net), using Drupal 5.0 as the foundation, in close alliance with STRONG ANGEL, not only could we bury Microsoft and ORACLE, but we could save the world in the time allowed, which is to say, in the next fifteen years.

Larry Brilliant (Director of points out that pandemics have killed over 20 popes, kings, queens, and prime ministers. Google has the opposite problem–it’s not willing to gain control of the planet by giving up control of the hub. I know for a fact that India is thinking about how to displace Google (even if their chief R&D guy is there–who knows, he may have gone native again), and I am earnestly dismayed that Google, Wikipedia, the Internet Archive, and Amazon as well as IBM, CISCO, and Yahoo cannot get together with an anti-trust waiver similar to what was granted to the MCC with Bobby Inman and Doug Lenat. Time is a’wasting and time is the one thing we cannot replace nor buy.

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