Thursday, August 02, 2007

I have just finished reading the book "The Google story" by David A. Vise and boy what a fascinating read it was. I certainly didn't expect the story of 2 stanford graduates who made it big to be this good a literary work. Kudos to the author for crafting this work and providing an insight into the birth and maturing of the world's best search engine.
The journey starts with the characters being introduced and the meeting of Larry and Sergey at Stanford and the sequence of events that followed. Larry is the first to come up with the idea of building a search engine and Sergey helps refine it with his mathematical prowess. The two then seek funding for their project, get the necessary funding, drop out of Stanford and are on their way. Who would not provide funding for such a project if they had the money especially in the peak of the dot com bubble. o much is being said about there not being money involved in search. Yahoo and microsoft think of search as not being primary areas of focus for them. For a large part of the nineties, internet users had to be content with the likes of Altavista, Excite, Looksmart, Lycos, yahoo and a host of other search engines none of which were good. Altavista in fact is mentioned by Bill Gates in his book "The road ahead". Altavista and to an extent yahoo were in fact undermining the usefulness of search by offering paid placements in their search results. Yahoos method of indexing sites by category was not liked by many, me being one of them that disliked it. All this was brought to an end with Google's amazing 'PageRank' algorithm that ranks search results on their importance.
E-commerce had already laid its roots and it was only obvious that merchants would have flocked to have their sites advertised on Google. If google did not have an advertising mechanism in place, they needn't have feared since Altavista already had one notwithstanding their eye always being on the cash register. The cinderella story continues as the company's IPO is a money spinner and their advertising picks up momentum so much so that they have begun to be seen as a big threat by the likes of Microsoft. Nearly all of google's revenue comes from the ads they display alongside the search results. In that respect, they are a 'one trick pony' in the words of the author himself. Any disruption in this ad displaying would result in immediate losses to Google which the author does not fail to highlight. All somebody has to do is launch a slew of search websites, all of which use the same search engine, possibly even google's, and provide the facility to advertisers to advertise their products alongside search results just like Google. This way, Google would no longer have the monopoly that it now enjoys. Having said that, it would really take some serious work to beat google at their own game especially since by now they would have refined their search engine and know all the tricks of the search engine trade and thus have a headstart over anyone else. But still, thats something Microsoft would consider worth exploring. There's no mention of Google maps in the book but that's probably because it was still on the drawing board then.
On the down side, the book is infectious and reading about all that money rubs on you a little bit. Especially if you are a wannabe entrepreneur like me. Beware or you could end up losing your friends because you are always talking of IPOs, scaling up and branding. As for the future, I for one don't see Microsoft or anyone else beating Google at their own game. Sure they would get close. But if the people at Google are on their toes, then they could really win hearts across the globe.

11 comments:

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