- Postado por Guilherme 15 Jul
Sep 18th 2008
From The Economist print edition
GOOGLE must be the most ambitious company in the world. Its stated goal, “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” deliberately omits the word “web” to indicate that the company is reaching for absolutely all information everywhere and in every form. From books to health records and videos, from your friendships to your click patterns and physical location, Google wants to know. To some people this sounds uplifting, with promises of free access to knowledge and help in managing our daily lives. To others, it smacks of another Big Brother, no less frightening than its totalitarian ancestors for being in the private sector.
Randall Stross, a journalist at the New York Times, does a good job of analysing this unbounded ambition by organising Google’s quest into its thematic components. One chapter is about the prodigious data centres that Google is building with a view to storing all that information, another about the algorithms at the heart of its web search and advertising technology, another about its approach to dead-tree information bound in books, its vision for geographical information and so forth. He is at his best when explaining how Google’s mission casually but lethally smashes into long-existing institutions such as, say, copyright law or privacy norms.
And yet, unfathomably, he mostly omits the most fascinating component of Google, its people. Google is what it is because of its two founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who see themselves as benevolent über-geeks and embody the limitless optimism about science, technology and human nature that is native to Silicon Valley. The world is perfectible, and they are the ones who will do much of the perfecting, provided you let them.
Messrs Brin and Page set out to create a company and an entire culture in their image. From the start, they professed that they would innovate as much in managing—rewarding, feeding, motivating, entertaining and even transporting (via Wi-Fi-enabled free shuttle buses) their employees—as they do in internet technology. If Google is in danger of becoming a caricature, this is first apparent here—in the over-engineered day-care centres, the shiatsu massages and kombucha teas. In reality Googlers are as prone to turf wars and office politics as anyone else.
None of that makes it into Mr Stross’s account, which at times reads like a diligent summary of news articles. At those moments, “Planet Google” takes a risk akin to trying to board a speeding train: the Google story changes so fast that no book can stay up to date for long. Even so, a sober snapshot of this moment in Google’s quest is welcome. Especially since Google fully expects, as its chief executive, Eric Schmidt, says at the end of the book, to take 300 years completing it.