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Googled: The End of the World as We Know It

A look at the meteoric rise of Google.

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Auletta regularly diverges from the history of Google to frame the company’s rise in the context of an environment in which traditional media firms, by resisting innovation time after time, have begun penning their own eulogies. Auletta’s treatment of the newspaper, magazine, and music giants of the world is far from harsh, however. Edgar Bronfman, Warner Music Group’s CEO, summarizes the author’s take, “The record business is in trouble. The music business is not.” It is clear that there is still a market for information and for journalism. It is less clear how media companies will engineer a means of distribution for their content that not only caters to the changing habits of its users, but also can be properly monetized to make their operations profitable.

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Google’s casual workplace culture and free services (GMail, Google Earth, etc.) have created a public brand that meshes neatly with Brin and Page’s “Don’t be evil” corporate slogan. Hundreds of millions of users trust the Google logo and many of its accompanying products. The founding duo dismisses the prospect that Google would ever betray user privacy for strictly commercial, and presumably selfish, ends.

Nevertheless, Google archives significant stores of data on its users’ online behaviors to better target advertising with the ultimate goal of increasing revenues. Auletta keenly observes that the “do first, ask questions later” mentality of Google’s founders is bound to create significant obstacles to growth. Copyright concerns and privacy rights are just two of the controversies surrounding Google’s use of online content and users’ information.

Auletta neatly inspects the threats, both internal and external, that will challenge Google’s founders, executives, shareholders, users, and competitors in the future. His thorough reporting and declarative writing provide a crisp, informative read. A seasoned observer of the boom-bust cycles emanating from California’s Silicon Valley, Auletta displays the skill of a responsible journalist in both researching and crafting this snapshot of today’s technological landscape.

Having witnessed the rise and decline of countless Internet and software start-ups, Auletta proceeds with an analyst’s discretion when determining the effects of Google as a product, a publicly traded company, and a corporate brand. Although Auletta acknowledges the robust success of Google, he is quick to point out that the company is far from invincible. It only takes a few geniuses in a garage to prove that.

Jackson Holohan is a freelance writer in East Haddam, Conn.

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