Title: The Search
Author: John Battelle
Page Count/Review Word Count: 311
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first – my copy of this book was published in 2005. Now, that might not seem like a huge revelation, but eight years is a long time in the age of the internet – in fact, Facebook didn’t even exist when the book was written, at least in not in any recognisable form.
This book is so old that even Yahoo, the lumbering behemoth that eventually collapsed under its own weight, is listed as a major Google competitor, claiming 24% of the search market compared to Google’s 51%.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, though, we can focus on the positives – Battelle’s book is a thoroughly engaging journey through the history of search engine development, covering everything from AOL to Alta Vista through Excite, Lycos and Ask Jeeves. Remember those guys?
In all honesty and despite its age, The Search is a gripping read that delivers on its promise to explain “how Google and its rivals rewrote the rules of business and transformed our culture.” It’s fascinating to learn the intricacies of search, from algorithms to the major innovation that was GoTo’s Overture and Google’s AdWords, two similar systems which finally monetised search with relevant, contextual advertising.
But perhaps most interesting is the final chapter, with Battelle’s prophecies for the future of search and what he calls the ‘perfect search‘, when search engines can actually understand their users’ queries and answer them intelligently, like a librarian that’s managed to memorise the contents of each of the books in his collection.
We’re not quite there yet, but we’ve moved on in leaps and bounds since Battelle’s book was published in 2005, and a lot of those predictions have already come to fruition. The rest are on their way…