Search by John Battelle

Thanks to Nambikumar Palani for insisting that I read Search by John Battelle. There is no question that Google has transformed our lives and made Search an integral part of our lives. John has done an excellent job of chronicling the evolution of search with major emphasis on Google. I think, the concluding part, where he describes the future of search, could have been done better, explaining concepts like semantic web some more. Here are the few things I learnt from this book: 1. The Birth of Google. This chapter gave me goosebumps, where Larry Page describes how he thought of the web as a connected graph.

Page found the Web interesting primarily for its mathematical characteristics. Each computer was a node, and each link on a Web page was a connection between nodes – a classic graph structure. “Computer scientists love graphs,” Page tells me. The World Wide Web, Page theorized, may have been the largest graph ever created, and it was growing at a breakneck pace.

Fortunately, Wired Magazine published this chapter as an extract, for those that haven’t read the book yet.  The other beautiful concept is  – treating each link as a citation, which is the key in the enormously relevant results that Google generates. That of course, is an idea  carried over from academia, where every citation of a paper makes it more valuable. Yet, these 2 concepts are so simple. Steve Jobs calls Apple’s products “insanely great” and I would say Google’s products are “stupendously simple”.  Reams have been written about their sparse home page for it has a zero learning curve and is so addictive. 2. The whole ad-based business model that has Google’s share value skyrocketing,  was actually invented by Bill Gross’s Overture company which was subsequently bought over by Yahoo. 3. The entire history of Search starting from Archie to Lycos and others is fascinating. 4. John’s concept of a “Database of Intentions” is very interesting. When you are searching for something you are conveying a bit of your intent. 5. Google’s own history of growth. As John says, with the Google PR machine working over time, you are likely to have heard about most of the things in this section. Nambi Kumar Palani has produced a powerpoint-based review of  this book. You can read this for some more useful comments on this book. References:
1. Research done by a Dutch researcher Elke den Ouden shows:

Half of all malfunctioning products returned to stores by consumers are in full working order, but customers can’t figure out how to operate the devices.

Therefore, if you are designing products or web sites or whatever, keep it stupendously simple. 2. Management a la Google ($$) – this article in the WSJ by strategy guru Gary Hamel has been bashed in the blogosphere for its fawning and hyperbole. It nevertheless highlights some of the key management principles that make Google what it is.