Since being founded nearly 14 years ago as part of a research project, Google has grown exponentially and continues to develop technologies that penetrate into most aspects of our increasingly technological lives. Last month, Google paid upwards of $1 million to advertise itself during the Super Bowl, but given that they have progressed so far without advertising, was this necessary? I mean, if you can make your product synonymous with conducting a web-based search – “I’ll just Google it” – advertising your product seems somewhat redundant. All this merely adds to the mystery surrounding Google, the brainchild of Larry Page and Sergei Brin, and it is this mystery, this sense of fascination regarding Google, that Ken Auletta seeks to analyse within Googled.
Given Auletta’s background within financial journalism, the focus of the book is mostly upon the business side of Google, yet other perspectives on the company are not entirely neglected. The first few chapters are fairly tough-going, concentrating on Google’s chronology and discussion of their explosion in popularity, with dates and statistics littered throughout like confetti. For those who have a passing knowledge of their work, the emphasis placed upon Google’s innovative and ethical development is fairly familiar – their mantra of “Don’t be evil” sums it up succinctly. The reinforcement of Google’s greatness within the first section of the book is somewhat off-putting, which is a shame because what follows the first few heavy-going chapters is nothing short of captivating.
Yet, if the first few chapters are filled with wide-eyed adoration, what follows is certainly fairer if nothing else. Auletta digs deeper into his analysis of Google – looking at the criticisms levelled at the company relating to the privacy of information and the copyright issues surrounding Youtube and Google Books – both with appropriate levels of balance. Yet, the discussion the privacy surrounding users’ data is a little too shallow, and doesn’t look beyond the aforementioned maxim of being principled in their work at Google – something which could well change in the future.
The fullness of Auletta’s account of Google’s rise cannot be denied – the sheer number of interviewees and the proportion of the book devoted to these interviews merely demonstrate the desire to present a full account of the rise of the company. The thoroughness of Googled is almost necessary, yet the balance between detail and ease of reading is well-struck; it is neither too stodgy nor too cursory.
The most notable omission within Googled is the opinion of the author himself. Given his previous successes as a business journalist, Auletta’s perspective would be enlightening; seemingly his sense of journalistic fairness allows him to pose some intriguing and salient questions, but not to indulge the reader as to his own opinion on matters. Nevertheless, Googled is a comprehensive look at the company behind some of the technology most of us use on a daily basis with interesting discussions of the impact Google has already had on the technology sector and a sense of what could be around the bend for the search giant.