Book Review: "The Search"

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Friday, June 30, 2006
Book Review: 'The Search'
"Every day, millions upon millions of people lean forward into their computer screens and pour their wants, fears, and intentions into the simple colors and brilliant white background of "Peugeot dealer Lyon," one might ask (in French, of course). "Record criminal Michael Evens," an anxious woman might query as she awaits her blind date. "Toxic EPA Westchester County," a potential home owner might ask."

"Link by link, click by click, search is building possibly the most lasting, ponderous, and significant cultural artifact in the history of humankind: the Database of Intentions. The Database of Intentions is simply this: the aggregate results of every search ever entered, every result list ever tendered, and every path taken as a result. It lives in many places, but three or four place in particular - AOL, Google, MSN, Yahoo - hold a massive amount of this data. Taken together, this information represents a real-time history of post-Web culture - a massive clickstream database of desires, needs, wants, and preferences that can be discovered, subpoenaed, archived, tracked, and exploited for all sorts of ends."

I just finished reading "The Search" by John Battelle, a book that outlines how Google and its rivals rewrote the rules of business and transformed our culture, and I found it to be a great read! Seriously... its amazing! While many authors and industry publications have focused on Google exclusively for the past few years, Battelle brilliantly lays out the history of search engines and explores the reality that exists behind Google and others.

This book highlights how Google and its competition were able to find the formula to make money and still provide the world with free search listings, and how so many companies, both small and large, actually depend on search in order to be successful. To think that search engines, like Google and Yahoo!, can actually make or break a company pending on their latest algorithmic update is truly amazing.

Battelle also touches on security issues, the Patriot Act and how it can and possibly will impact us, and his opinions of how search will affect the world around us in the not-to-distant future. In fact, he shared a very interesting idea in which he believes could prove to be true as search continues to be intertwined with other technologies.

Battelle believes that one day, through a combination of cell phone and search technology, a shopper maybe able to compare prices with other area merchants while standing in an isle at a supermarket or retail store. The shopper will have the ability to scan the products information using a built in (to a cell phone) bar-code scanner and perform various local search options to determine if they can find that same product cheaper just down the road. How cool would that be?

With such technology so readily available, I immediately think of how much cheaper merchants will have to go with their products for fear of being over-priced. Either that or they'll have to start banning cell phones at supermarkets and retail stores.

If you're interested in understanding how the search engine industry and the Internet has evolved to where it is today, as well as where it will continue to evolve moving forward, give John Battelle's "The Search" a read.


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