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Book Review: The Search by John Battelle
Review by Dr. Harvey M. Deitel
"Google is angling to become the de facto marketplace for all of global commerce." [p248]
Did that catch your attention? It sure caught mine! I had no idea that this may be the ultimate disposition of Google—the search company that didn't even exist seven years ago, is now the world's fastest growing company and, based on its recent stock price, the world's most valuable media company.
This book is your key to understanding search from a business perspective—past, present and probably well into the future. And what a future it will be if John Battelle's vision comes to fruition!
Batelle presents the history of search, helping us understand how Google, a relatively late comer, has grown so quickly to dominate the field. To the extent possible without being privy to the details, he takes us inside Google's legendary PageRank algorithm—one of the most carefully guarded secrets since the Coca Cola recipe was formulated. And by the way, the "Page" in PageRank may not mean what you think it does.
If you're an entrepreneur designing new Internet businesses, this book will inspire you. It will make you think on a grand scale. But it will also caution you about equally grand traps and uncertainties. Nevertheless the search juggernaut appears to be unstoppable.
The book is meticulously researched and carefully cited. Battelle interviewed 400 people including Google's founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Yahoo's founders Jerry Yang and David Filo, and scores of other search industry leaders. You feel that you're sitting in on Battelle's frank conversations with these titans. The book is rich with resources that you'll want to check out—which is so easy to do in a Web-based world with search engines at the ready to guide you!
The book appears to be about Google, but it's really about the whole search industry. Google gets its fair due as the company that dominates the field—I've seen the following search engine market share estimates at the recent Search Engine Strategies conference in San Jose: Google has about 50% of the market, Yahoo! about 25%, MSN about 12% and Ask Jeeves about 6% (including the many smaller search engines it owns).
Battelle argues that Amazon, eBay and even Microsoft may all be surpassed by Google as it develops ever more intriguing and powerful search-based and related applications. He sees search as the key to global commerce, bringing buyers and sellers together worldwide. He sees the Web emerging as the next major computing platform, with Google owning dominant computing power and communications bandwidth, challenging the role of Microsoft Windows on the desktop as a new Web-based operating system appears. He sees Google focused like a laser beam on indexing all of the world's information and making it easily accessible to anyone who wants it, and he paints an intriguing portrait of the effects of that effort on world business and the global economy.
He digs deep into the business strategies of the leading search companies and explains the profound philosophical differences between Yahoo! and Google. He points out that Google's position will be challenged by the extraordinary resources of Yahoo! and Microsoft, and that it's not clear who will win this battle royale.
You'll learn about many of Google's products, especially  AdWords and AdSense—it's two most significant sources of revenue—which are helping enormous numbers of businesses and individuals advertise economically and efficiently on the Web (AdWords), and monetize their Web sites and their blogs with text-based contextual advertising (AdSense). And you'll want to consider Google's impending image ads capability. You'll understand the difference between the "content attachment" and "intent attachment" marketing models, and why the latter is so compelling in the search world.
You may be fascinated to discover that the highest bidder on a keyword in the AdWords program doesn't necessarily get the top placement in search results. You'll learn who really invented search and who really created the paid search business model (neither was Google) and you'll understand the business opportunities in paid search, subscriptions and referrals.
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