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Book Summary: The Google Story by David A. Vise

My Personal Summary

This book is about the founding of Google, the world’s leading search engine.

Book Notes

  • Larry Page and Sergey Brin met at Stanford in 1995.
  • Both were brilliant and both came from families that encouraged intellectual debates. Both attended Montessori schools growing up, both had dads who were professors and moms who worked in computer science, and both were exposed to computers at a young age.
  • Larry attended University of Michigan and graduated with a degree in computer engineering in 1995.
  • Sergey was born in Russia in 1973, but his family fled the country when he was six in search of greater freedom and opportunity. His family moved to a suburb outside Washington DC. Growing up, he always valued self learning at home more than at schools (similar to Wright Brothers)
  • Sergey attended University of Maryland and graduated in 1993 in computer science.
  • Netscape, a company that created one of the first web browsers, had an IPO in 1995. This got Wall Street’s attention and venture capitalists suddenly became highly interested in investing in young tech startups, many of whom were beginning to emerge at Stanford.
  • The World Wide Web was invented in 1989. By the mid 1990s, the leading search engine was AltaVista but it wasn’t very good.
  • Page decided to download the entire internet in 1996 (which cost the computer science department at Stanford thousands of dollars) and devised a link-rating system called PageRank that would rank websites based on the number of external links pointing to them from other websites.
  • Page and Brin offered to sell their PageRank algorithm to AltaVista, Yahoo!, and other big internet companies at the time, but were turned down by each company.
  • In 1998, Brin and Page took leave from Stanford after getting $100k from an angel investor and moved into a house in nearby Menlo Park to pursue Google full time. Five months later, they moved into offices near Stanford. They bought way more computers and started “crawling” I.e. downloading the entire web more frequently.
  • In 1999, venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins and Sequoia Capital invested a total of $25 million into Google and agreed that Brin and Page would retain majority ownership. Google was by far the best search engine at the time, but still didn’t have a business model.
  • Google decided to create a program where anyone could sign up and sell ads. The text-based ads were placed above the search results and separated with a line to make it clear to users the difference between ads and search results.
  • Google refused to ever place ads on their home page (and still do to this day) to ensure an uncluttered look and fast loading time for users.
  • Google grew almost entirely though word of mouth early on. Eventually it allowed websites to insert Google search bars into their sites and started paying out 3 cents per search to sites. This caused the total number of users to grow exponentially as Google became more well known.
  • “Google runs only keyword-targeted text ads. That means you don’t see the ad unless you’re searching for information on that specific topic.” -this means users actually read the ads more often because they’re actually relevant.
  • Google also added image search, which added a whole new dimension to search.
  • In 2000, Google had its first profitable year, earning $7 million from ads.
  • In 2001, Google hired Eric Schmidt as CEO to help build some business infrastructure. Brin and Page were like the young tech guys with great ideas while Schmidt was like the adult who made sure they had a business plan.
  • Online advertising became popular for businesses because it offered a way to analyze which ads lead to actual conversions and revenue, unlike TV, radio, magazine, and billboard ads where conversion rates couldn’t be tracked.
  • Google ads operated using an auction style marketplace where businesses could bid a certain amount to have their ad shown for specific keywords. However, the highest bidder wasn’t always shown in the top spot. Instead, Google would sometimes display lower bidders who had higher converting ads because these ads proved to be more useful to the users. This was different than other companies who simply showed the ads of the highest bidders at the top.
  • In 2002, Google earned $100 million in profits (although the world didn’t know it because they were still a private company).
  • Google famously gave employees “20% time” where they could spend 20% of their working hours on any project they’d like. This attracted tech employees to the company and also produced important inventions at Google like Google News and Froogle – a Google based shopping portal.
  • In 2004, Google went public, making Brin and Page billionaires overnight in just their early 30s.
  • Over the years, Google has maintained a hot tech company because they’ve been able to produce the highest quality search engine in the world along with tons of other products like Gmail, Google Maps, the Chrome Browser, Google Scholar, and other tech products.

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