The Search

A look at John Battelle's fascinating opus on how we find things.

A few weeks ago, I saw a list of the best business books of all time. I was a bit proud of myself that I had read most of them–at had at least heard of the rest. For whatever reason, though, one book had escape me over the years: The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture (affiliate link). I was more than five years late, but figured that I owed it to myself to give it a read.

I’m glad that I did.

I had seen Battelle on Bloomberg West and he was particularly smart and articulate. My one initial hesitation with The Search: I had already read many books about Google. (I count Ken Auletta’s book among my very favorites.) Did I really need to read yet another book about Larry and Sergey’s company?

But here’s the rub: Battelle’s book is hardly Google-specific. Rather, it’s about the vast implications of being able to find an increasing amount of information within seconds, a trend that shows no signs of abating. Now, to be sure, you can’t write a book about the history of search without delving into Google, but this is a book about so much more than one company. For instance, I learned a great deal about the role of Bill Gross and GoTo.com, a precursor to Google and the guy who cracked the nut on paid placements. I hadn’t realized that Larry and Sergey modified Gross’ central idea.

A Glimpse of What’s Beyond

While I probably should have read this excellent text when it was released, in a way I’m happy that I stumbled upon it now. Sure, AOL and Yahoo! are not nearly as relevant today as they were when Battelle was hammering away on his Mac. But reading books like this years after their release allows you to assess the author’s predictions ex post facto. Battelle’s vision of then then-future in 2006 is, for the most part, panning out.

On a general level, my very favorite business books do the following:

  • advance a big idea
  • teach me something new (not that easy to do, since I read many non-fiction, business, and technology books)
  • tell interesting stories
  • leave me wanting more

Battelle does all of the above with considerable aplomb. The man is a gifted writer and I can’t wait for his next opus.

Get. This. Book. Now.

philanimated

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