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The Google groupies
Wthat more do you want to know about world's most influential Internet company? Key in Google on Amazon's book search, and it spits out nearly 7, 000 titles on the company. There are books on what it does and how it does what it does. They are books on why Google is infallible and how it revolutionises management. There are more books on how it influences society and drives change. Much of it is cringe worthy - and well earned, many would say - praise. One writer even calls it Planet Google, as if the company is an alternative geekdom, at the intersection of the real and virtual worlds. No wonder founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are the two most written about entrepreneurs ever.
Well, if you are still not satiated and are a Google groupie, welcome two more additions. First up is Richard L Brandt's The Google Guys, a peppy hagiography which, surprise, surprise, claims to "skip past the well-known Google story" and explores what "really drives" Page and Brin. So it dives into "the brilliant minds" of the Google Twins, in what sounds like a literary foray by a neurosurgeon. (The book was previously titled Inside Larry and Sergey's Brain. ) Then there's I'm Feeling Lucky, a jaunty first person account of, surprise, surprise, the awesome experience of working for Google by its first director of consumer marketing and brand management, Douglas Edward. The 400-page gung ho narrative is bookended by two lines - 'Larry Page is an intense guy' and 'I feel lucky to have seen first hand just how true that [smart people, motivated to do make things better, can do almost anything] is'. Get the drift?
Google has changed the world all right. So Brandt, a technology journalist and a Google fan - but then who isn't ? - is almost evangelical in his admiration for the Google Twins and their path breaking company. Page and Brin, he writes, are socially awkward, wickedly clever, ruthlessly businesslike and pure idealists - all at the same time. They have gone beyond serving up a search engine which has not been bettered yet, and a no-frills, brutally efficient email, to do other interesting things, like digitising about seven million books, an incredible feat by any technological standards. To its detractors, Google, in Brandt's flowery prose is more like "Joseph Stalin". Jealous competitors believe Page and Brin have created a monopoly with all the power and danger that this brings.
Douglas Edward's sunny account of his roller coaster seven-year stint with Google shaping the company's communications with others is told from the perspective of a marketer and shies from the issues of censorship, regulation and monopoly which have been haunting the company. He writes about how Gmail was positioned not as a competitor to Yahoo mail, but an "entirely new way of thinking about communication" by pampering users with a gigabyte of storage capacity for free, and a useful search capability to trace email. There are such anecdotes aplenty which would interest marketers, management students and communicators.
How Google whipped Yahoo!, won the search engine war, focussed on small bargain-seeking advertisers and became the maharajah of Internet is a worn out story. But, as Brandt and most ardent Google admirers concede, the company is still struggling to crack the Facebookdominated social networking market. Integrating it with email, instant messaging, games and other online products remains a formidable challenge. Google has to contend with increasing anti-trust scrutiny, regulators and privacy advocates around the world. Then there's the existential dilemma over China: will it submit to censorship, lose its feisty reputation for independence, and reap the gains from the vast market, or drop out, lose market share and secure its freedom? For Page and Brin, Brandt writes, it is a "constant fight between revenue and principle". History shows revenue, usually, wins out.
The Google Guys
By Richard L Brandt Penguin 255 pages, Rs 399
I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59
By Douglas Edwards Allen Lane 401 pages, Rs 550
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