three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
45-Mar-Apr-2010
By: 
Ken Auletta
user_rating: 
0

The End of the World as We Know It

A-GoogledA former columnist for the New Yorker and the New York Daily News, Ken Auletta is an acclaimed journalist and the author of ten works of nonfiction.

The Topic: In 1998, idealistic Stanford students Larry Page and Sergey Brin launched a revolutionary new Internet search engine called "Google" from a garage in Menlo Park, California. Ten years later, the Silicon Valley start-up posted annual revenues of $21.8 billion, thanks to a groundbreaking program, AdWords, which charged advertisers a nominal "per click" fee and consequently reshaped the advertising industry. Google’s popularity has led to considerable control of online commerce, and many onlookers—especially those in the media, software, publishing, and telephone industries where Google is transforming "business as usual"—fear its power to manipulate Internet traffic and business. The company stumbles, argues Auletta, because it is so convinced of its own righteousness that it can’t comprehend concerns about privacy, copyright, and antitrust issues.
Penguin Press. 400 pages. $27.95. ISBN: 9781594202353

Chicago Sun-Times 4 of 5 Stars
"The consequences for privacy, intellectual property, economics and the future of journalism, as viewed through the Google prism, are the issues underlying his anecdote- and information-rich book. … Auletta’s book isn’t the last word on Google, which, after all, is only 11 years old. But he asks all the right questions." Carlo Wolff

Christian Science Monitor 4 of 5 Stars
"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." Jackson Holohan

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"Ken Auletta, the author of this absorbing, shaggy, name-droppy book, doesn’t seem to like either of them much—he says that Page has a ‘Kermit the Frog’ voice, which isn’t nice, while Brin comes off as a swaggering, efficiency-obsessed overachiever who, at Stanford, aced tests, picked locks, ‘borrowed’ computer equipment from the loading dock and once renumbered all the rooms in the computer science building. … What Auletta mainly does is talk shop with C.E.O.’s, and that is the great strength of the book." Nicholson Baker

Boston Globe 3.5 of 5 Stars
"For all its pluses, Googled does not always read crisply. … Readers without much interest in the media business will tire of Auletta’s extensive digressions on the subject." Michael Fitzgerald

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Googled functions as a fine primer for anyone looking to get a grip on the company’s history and its repercussions on the current media landscape. The prose is workmanlike, and Auletta doesn’t have a polemical take, let alone any prophesies." Joy Press

San Francisco Chronicle 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The writing at times feels rushed and unfinished, as if the author were sprinting to keep pace with the fast-moving company he chronicles. Nevertheless, Auletta has provided the fullest account yet of the rise of one of the most profitable, most powerful and oddest businesses the world has ever seen." Nicholas Carr

Wall Street Journal 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Thanks to the unusual degree of access that the company granted the author—and thanks to his sharp eye—Googled … presents interesting new details. … While the story of Google’s creation and evolution still holds interest, what fascinates is the company’s growing power and expanding horizons." Jeremy Philips

Critical Summary

Auletta was granted unprecedented access to the Google campus and its top executives, including Page, Brin, and CEO Eric Schmidt, and the result is an array of fascinating, little-known details he adds to the global corporation’s widespread rags-to-riches story. If Auletta has little patience or affection for his subjects, he does not let his disdain spill over too much into his coverage. Critics carped about Auletta’s inelegant, if serviceable, writing and extensive asides, but they conceded that these were minor complaints. Readers not vitally concerned with the media industry may not find Auletta’s arguments compelling, but, whether they share his apprehensions or not, they will discover, in Googled, a valuable history of one of the world’s most powerful, profitable, and peculiar companies.