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Googled: The End of the World as We Know It

A look at the meteoric rise of Google.

By Jackson Holohan / November 9, 2009

In early 1998, Bill Gates headed Microsoft at the peak of its commercial powers. The world’s preeminent software giant claimed a 90 percent market share in all desk and laptop PCs and it was difficult to imagine anything that could unsettle, much less evoke fear in, the Sultan of Software.

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Nonetheless, when asked what challenge he most feared, Gates responded, “I fear someone in a garage who is devising something completely new.” Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the cofounders of Google, were that very pair. Nestled in a Menlo Park, Calif., garage, these two software engineers were preparing to launch a product that would change the way the world used the Internet.

Ken Auletta, an author and a longtime columnist for the The New Yorker, documents the meteoric rise of Google from its humble beginnings through its multibillion-dollar profits in his latest book, Googled: The End of the World as We Know It. As the latter half of the title suggests, Auletta’s work is more than just a history of Google and a biography of its principals. It is rather a tripartite inspection of modern technological innovation, the decline of traditional media (print journalism, music CDs, etc.) and its revenue stream (advertising sales), and the ways in which Google serves as a flash point for many of the successes and controversies surrounding the Digital Age.

Google’s uncommon rise is perhaps fitting for the most uncommon of companies. The free amen­ities offered to Google employees are certainly unorthodox. Gourmet meals, massages, dry cleaning, and all-day transportation to and from work are provided to Googlers at no cost. Volleyball courts, expansive grass fields, and employees pedaling around on company bicycles make the GooglePlex in Mountain View, Calif., look more like a college campus than the headquarters of a firm that boasted 2008 revenues of $21.796 billion. Google even allocates 20 percent of employees’ time for projects and activities of their own choosing. Google News, the popular news aggregator, is the product of one software engineer’s mandated free time. Incessant innovation has made Google the best search engine in the world and is a product of the company’s unofficial ethos “to shoot for the moon, not the tops of trees.”


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