books - business 2008

The Google Story

The Google Story

by David A. Vise and Mark Malseed

my flags…

pg 11 … Brin and Page, in just five years, had taken a graduate school research project and turned it into a multibillion-dollar enterprise with global reach.

pg 42 While Larry and Sergey saw the search engine as special and the most important part of the Internet experience for computer users hunting for information, others saw it as a sideline, merely one of a number of items to be included in a smorgasbord of services. But the pair didn’t give up. “They have a somewhat sceptical view of authority,” Winograd said. “If they see the world going one way and they believe it should be going the other way, they are more likely to say, ‘The rest of the world is wrong,’ rather than, ‘Maybe we should reconsider.’ They were confident in their approach and would tell you they thought everyone else was wrong.”

pg 50 “They are really driven by a vision of how things ought to be, and not to make money,” Allison said. “The idea of digitizing the entirety of the universe and making it work is something nobody was willing to tackle but lots of people knew needed to be done. They managed to get that together and bulldozed through the limitations. And with some luck, it is actually going to work.”

pg 65 Moritz said he also recognized that Brin and Page, together, had the right stuff. He had seen over and over again how start-up companies founded by pairs of entrepreneurs who shared a common vision had a greater chance for success than lone individuals. It had happened at Microsoft with Bill Gates and Paul Allen. It had happened at Apple with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozkiak. It had happened at Yahoo. And maybe, just maybe, it could happen at Google.

pg 71 Before Larry and Sergey departed for Burning Man, they created some experimental art on the search engine’s home page. Seeing an opportunity to infuse new life into the logo, they incorporated a rendering of the Man in the second o of Google. To an outsider, the stickman logo looked crude, hastily assembled. But to those in the know, it signalled where the Google crew would be that week. The impulse to tinker with the design triggered an organic change. Heading out the door to a festival celebrating ingenuity, they had unknowingly given birth to the Google doodle.

pg 77 In December, Mayer rolled out one of her first big changes to Google’s design: a new font. Following orders to gather data, not opinions, she had researched different fonts for their legibility on a computer screen, and decided on Verdana, a sans serif font. At the time, Google was using a serif font, but Mayer found that fonts without serifs (the tiny curlycues on certain letters) made skimming search results easier. Thinking nothing more, Mayer left the office for a half-day outing with Google’s other female engineers to have tea at a fancy hotel in San Francisco. She returned several hours later to several strongly worded threats. Verdana was inappropriately sized! It was off by two point sizes! How could Google lose serifs and become sans serif?! Whoever ruined Google..! The intensity of the reaction surprised Mayer, but she learned a valuable lesson for future design changes: you need data, but you also need people to test it.

pg 79 Dean and other Googlers from this era love to tell the story of how they cobbled together a virtual supercomputer from cheap, commodity PCs. Rather than spending $800,000 on a high-end system from IBM, he said, they went to, where for just $250,000 they found a rack of 88 computers that provided comparable processing power and several times more disk storage. They also used the free operating system Linux rather than buying software from Microsoft. Those savings gave Google a significant edge over competitors, even those able to match them dollar for dollar in capital spending. For every dollar spent, Google had three times more computing power than its competitors.

pg 131 But Google had something else special about it that Bharat relished: a rule that software engineers spend at least 20 percent of their time , or one day a week, working on whatever projects interested them. … At Google, the 20 percent approach sent the opposite message – spend one day a week on something you, not your boss, are passionate about, and don’t worry about such pedestrian matters as whether the idea could be a moneymaker or something that could be turned into a successful product. In other words, please yourself. …. “At Google, if something is worth doing, it gets funded,” Bharat said, noting that no one ever asked how the product would make money.

pg 145 Michael Chabon, author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, said, “Writers of the past had absinthe, whiskey or heroin. I have Google. I go there intending to stay five minutes and next thing I know, I’ve written 43 words, and all I have to show for it is that I know the titles of every episode of ‘Nanny and the Professor’.

pg 147 To the delight of cybersleuths and the chagrin of the hunted, old Web pages are granted a life after death by Google’s practice of storing, or caching, a copy of every page it downloads. Thus, even after a page has been taken down by its author, a Google searcher can find and retrieve it.

pg 195 “I could feel the energy. They had it,”Ayers (Google’s chef) recalled. “Everyone was so focused and into it, and they all had one goal: to make this company successful. It was ‘Look at what we did,’ not ‘Look at me’. It was a total team effort. Once they said, ‘We are going to have a wire party this weekend.’ I didn’t know what that was. I went to the data centre in San Jose and found myself on the ground pulling cables. We all pitched in.”

pg 197 On the other Fridays, Larry, Sergey or Eric typically spoke about how things were going at Google and answered questions. They also used the occasion to introduce new employees, known at the company as “Nooglers”.

pg 209 “Google is not anti-anybody,” said Jon Miller of AOL. “Most companies need a business enemy, and that is how they motivate themselves.” Brin and Page, on the other hand, “are motivated by their mission. Clearly, they think very differently and are driven by their vision and business goals.”

pg 212 Larry also played a leadership role in prioritizing near-term technical research. Using a system known as the Top 100, he stayed on top of the 100 most compelling new and unfolding projects that might need staffing and other resources. Through this process, he helped to identify the most promising 20 percent projects.

pg 236 Michigan was to be the test ground for the new devices and the logistics of scanning. When the truck arrived with the scanning equipment, a person not involved with the project began asking questions about what was going on. Wilkin realized they needed a strategy on how to preserve the secrecy, and fast. The solution they arrived at was to hide it in plain view. They set up in an area of the library where other scanning was done, and on the door of the room with the special Google equipment they posted a sign that read MICHIGAN DIGITALIZATION PROJECT. “And that was the last we heard anything.” Wilkin said.

pg 262 Like so much about Google, it came down to sheer math. At the scale at which Google operated, serving results for hundreds of millions of searches each day, all it took was one out of every ten or fifteen searchers to click on an ad – at, say, an average price of 50 cents for the click – for the company to reach the sort of quarterly earnings it achieved in 2004.

pg 274 Lee himself outlined the reasons for his wanting to join Google on a Chinese web site read by thousands of engineering students. Formatting his statement as a math equation, he wrote: “youth + freedom + transparency + new model + the general public’s benefit + belief in trust = The Miracle of Google.

Google Search Tips

pg 294 Google can be your dictionary. Type define followed by any English word in the search box, and Google will give you a quick definition at the top of the search results.

pg 295 Browse the world’s bookshelves online. Search for a topic at and you will see information from actual books that Google has scanned and indexed in its database. You can browse or read the entire text of works that are not copyrighted; for others, you can see snippets of pages where your search term appears and learn where to by a full copy.

pg 296 Google can be your weatherman. Type weather followed by a zip code or the name of a city, and Google will give the current conditions and a four-day forecast at the top of the results page.

Become a scholar. Serious searchers can tap into thousands of scientific and academic journals with Google Scholar. Enter a query into the search box at to get abstracts of papers from published sources.

Take a magic ~ ride. The tilde character “`” in the corner of your keyboard is a handy tool in Google searches. Put it before a word, with no space between, to have Google look for pages with both that term and its synonyms. Example: A search for ~auto will turn up Web pages that use the terms cars, trucks, automobiles, and more.

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