This book by The New Yorker writer Ken Auletta explores the effect of Google, and the internet in general, on many of the World's old business models. Since it's foundation in 1998, Google has become the household name for internet search and along the way the company has developed a business utilizing its efficiency to provide advertising as targeted as the search results. In 2008, while the world at large was in financial crisis, Google posted $21.8 billion in revenue - 97% of which was from advertising - more than the combined revenues of CBS, NBC, ABC, and FOX.
'Old media' has seen an enormous departure of advertising dollars over the last decade due to a shift in where advertisers are choosing to spend their marketing budgets. Among other things, the fallout from this has seen TV networks increase the amount of reality TV shows to keep costs down, major newspapers declare bankruptcy and the friendly face of Google seen as the new evil empire.
From the 'Don't be evil' mantra from within the walls of the Googleplex, to an industry report describing the company as 'Googzilla', the rapid growth and far reaching scope has many concerned about the power of the company, including the US government. "Googzilla is voracious, and it will consume companies presently unaware they are the equivalent of a free-range chicken burrito..."
Google are run by engineers with, arguably, a narrow-minded attitude towards technology. "If you can solve search, you can answer anything", say the founders. This has landed the company in hot water many times due to their consideration of privacy, copyright and other moral concerns. 'Ignorance or arrogance' is explored with the cases of Google's ambition to digitize the roughly 20 million books in the world as well as Google News' impact on the online news industry.
Critics call Google a one-trick pony since it is still yet to derive revenue from any of it's 150 products other than advertising, including YouTube, which costs $500 million annually to keep running. However it seems that the wave has not yet crested for Google and it still has much scope for expansion including its entry into the mobile phone market with the Andriod phone platform.
Will Google prove that mathematical algorithms are the answer to all our questions, or will the power of human common sense prove to be irreplaceable by computers?