Sábado, 18 de Janeiro de 2020
ISSN 1519-7670 - Ano 19 - nº1070


O mundo do Google

Por Leticia Nunes (seleção de textos) em 01/12/2009 na edição 566


Leia abaixo a segunda parte da seleção de segunda-feira para a seção Entre Aspas.



Resenhas sobre o livro ‘Googled: The End of the World as We Know It’, de Ken Auletta

(Em inglês)


Nicholson Baker, The New York Times, 29/11

Google’s Earth

‘I’m fond of Google, I have to say. I like Larry Page, who seems, at least in the YouTube videos I’ve watched, shy and smart, with salt-and-pepper bangs; and Sergey Brin, who seems less shy and jokier and also smart. Ken Auletta, the author of this absorbing, shaggy, name-droppy book, doesn’t seem to like either of them much — he says that Page has a ‘Kermit the Frog’ voice, which isn’t nice, while Brin comes off as a swaggering, efficiency-obsessed overachiever who, at Stanford, aced tests, picked locks, ‘borrowed’ computer equipment from the loading dock and once renumbered all the rooms in the computer science building. ‘Google’s leaders are not cold businessmen; they are cold engineers,’ Auletta writes — but ‘cold’ seems oddly wrong. Auletta’s own chilliness may be traceable in part to Brin’s and Page’s reluctance to be interviewed. ‘After months of my kicking at the door, they opened it,’ he writes in the acknowledgments. ‘Google’s founders and many of its executives share a zeal to digitize books,’ he observes, ‘but don’t have much interest in reading them.’

They’ll probably give more than a glance at ‘Googled.’ I read the book in three huge gulps and learned a lot — about Google’s ‘cold war’ with Facebook, about Google’s tussles with Viacom, about Google’s role in the ‘Yahoo-Microsoft melee’ and about Google’s gradual estrangement from its former ally, Apple. Auletta is given to martial similes and parallels, from Prince Metternich in 19th-century Europe to Afghanistan now: ‘Privacy questions will continue to hover like a Predator drone,’ he writes, ‘capable of firing a missile that can destroy the trust companies require to serve as trustees for personal data.’ And he includes some revealing human moments: Larry Page, on the day of Google’s hugely successful stock offering, pulls out his cellphone and says, ‘I’m going to call my mom!’

But what Auletta mainly does is talk shop with C.E.O.’s, and that is the great strength of the book. Auletta seems to have interviewed every media chief in North America, and most of them are unhappy, one way or another, with what Google has become. Google is voracious, they say, it has gargantuan ambitions, it’s too rich, it’s too smug, it makes big money off of O.P.C. — other people’s content. One unnamed ‘prominent media executive’ leaned toward Auletta at the 2007 Google Zeitgeist Conference and whispered a rhetorical question in his ear: What real value, he wanted to know, was Google producing for society?

Wait. What real value? Come now, my prominent executive friend. Have you not glanced at Street View in Google Maps? Have you not relied on the humble aid of the search-box calculator, or checked out Google’s movie showtimes, or marveled at the quick-and-dirtiness of Google Translate? Have you not made interesting recherché 19th-century discoveries in Google Books? Or played with the amazing expando-charts in Google Finance? Have you not designed a strange tall house in Google SketchUp, and did you not make a sudden cry of awed delight the first time you saw the planet begin to turn and loom closer in Google Earth? Are you not signed up for automatic Google News alerts on several topics? I would be very surprised if you are not signed up for a Google alert or two.

Surely no other software company has built a cluster of products that are anywhere near as cleverly engineered, as quick-loading and as fun to fiddle with, as Google has, all for free. Have you not searched?

Because, let me tell you, I remember the old days, the antegoogluvian era. It was O.K. — it wasn’t horrible by any means. There were cordless telephones, and people wore comfortable sweaters. There was AltaVista, and Ask Jeeves, and HotBot, and Excite, and Infoseek, and Northern Light — with its deep results and its elegant floating schooner logo — and if you wanted to drag through several oceans at once, there was MetaCrawler. But the haul was haphazard, and it came in slow. You chewed your peanut-butter cracker, waiting for the screen to fill.

Then Google arrived in 1998, sponged clean, impossibly fast. Google was like a sunlit white Formica countertop with a single vine-ripened tomato on it. No ads in sight — Google was anti-ad back then. It was weirdly smart, too; you almost never had a false hit. You didn’t have to know anything about the two graduate students who had aligned and tuned their secret algorithms — the inseparable Page and Brin — to sense that they were brilliant young software dudes, with all the sneakered sure-footedness of innocence: the ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ button in that broad blank expanse of screen space made that clear. Google would make us all lucky; that was the promise. And in fact, it did.

So why are the prominent media executives unhappy? Because Google is making lots of ad money, and there’s only so much ad money to go around. Last year almost all of Google’s revenue came from the one truly annoying thing that the company is responsible for: tiny, cheesy, three-line text advertisements. These AdWords or AdSense ads load fast, and they’re supposedly ‘polite,’ in that they don’t flicker or have pop-ups, and they’re almost everywhere now — on high-traffic destinations like The Washington Post or MySpace or Discovery.com, and on hundreds of thousands of little Web sites and blogs as well. ‘It’s all of our revenue,’ Larry Page said in a meeting that Auletta attended in 2007.

The headlines say things like ‘Laser Hair Removal,’ ‘Christian Singles,’ ‘Turn Traffic Into Money,’ ‘Have You Been Injured?’ ‘Belly Fat Diet Recipe,’ ‘If U Can Blog U Can Earn,’ ‘Are You Writing a Book?’ and so on. Countless M.F.A., or Made for AdSense, Web sites have appeared; they use articles stolen or ‘scraped’ or mashed together from sites like Wikipedia, and their edges are framed with Google’s text ads. The ads work on a cost-per-click scheme: the advertiser pays Google only if you actually click on the ad. If you do, he’s billed a quarter, or a dollar, or (for some sought-after keywords like ‘personal injury’ or ‘mesothelioma lawyers’) $10 or more.

But think — when was the last time you clicked on a three-line text ad? Almost never? Me neither. And yet, in 2008, Google had $21.8 billion in revenue, about 95 percent of which flowed from AdWords/AdSense. (A trickle came from banner and video ads sold by Google’s new subsidiary, DoubleClick, and from other products and services.) These unartful, hard-sell irritants — which have none of the beauty or the humor of TV, magazine, radio or newspaper advertising — are the foundation of Google’s financial empire, if you can believe it. It’s an empire built on tiny grains of keyword-searchable sand.

The advertising revenue keeps Google’s stock high, and that allows the company to do whatever it feels like doing. In 2006, when Google’s stock was worth $132 billion, the company absorbed YouTube for $1.65 billion, almost with a shrug. ‘They can buy anything they want or lose money on anything they choose to,’ Irwin Gotlieb, the chief of GroupM, one of Google’s biggest competitors in the media market, told Auletta. If Microsoft is courting DoubleClick, Google can swoop in and buy DoubleClick for $3.1 billion. If the business of ‘cloud’ computing seems to hold great promise, Google can build 20 or 50 or 70 massive data centers in undisclosed locations around the world, each drawing enough power to light a small city. Earlier this month, Google announced it would pay $750 million in stock for a company called AdMob, to sell banner ads on cellphones. ‘Once you get to a certain size, you have to figure out new ways of growing,’ Ivan Seidenberg, the chief executive of Verizon, said to Auletta. ‘And then you start leaking on everyone else’s industry.’ That’s why Auletta’s C.E.O.’s are resentful.

True, the miracles keep coming: Google Voice, which can e-mail you a transcript of your voice mail messages; and Chrome, a quick, clever Web browser; and Android, the new operating system for mobile devices. One of the latest is an agreement to print books on an A.T.M.-style on-demand printer, the Espresso Book Machine. But perhaps there are too many miracles emanating from one campus now; perhaps brand fatigue is setting in. Google’s famous slogan, ‘Don’t be evil,’ now sounds a little bell-tollingly dystopian.

When they were at Stanford, Page and Brin criticized search engines that had become too ‘advertising oriented.’ ‘These guys were opposed to advertising,’ Auletta quotes Ram Shriram, one of Google’s first investors, as saying. ‘They had a purist view of the world.’ They aren’t opposed now. Now they must be forever finding forage for a hungry, $180 billion ad-maddened beast. Auletta describes an unusual job-interview test that Sergey Brin once gave to a prospective in-house lawyer: ‘I need you to draw me a contract,’ Brin said to her. ‘I need the contract to be for me to sell my soul to the Devil.’ That was in 2002, the year Google began work internally on what would become AdSense.

Now Page and Brin fly around in a customized Boeing 767 and talk sincerely about green computing, even as the free streamings of everyone’s home video clips on YouTube burn through mountaintops of coal. They haven’t figured out a way to ‘monetize’ — that is, make a profit from — their money maelstrom, YouTube, although I notice that Coffee-mate and Samsung banners appear nowadays in Philip DeFranco’s popular video monologues. ‘The benefit of free is that you get 100 percent of the market,’ Eric Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, explained to Auletta. ‘Free is the right answer.’ For a while, perhaps — but maybe free is unsustainable. For newspapers, Auletta writes, ‘free may be a death certificate.’ Maybe in the end, even on the Internet, you get what you pay for.

Nicholson Baker’s most recent novel is ‘The Anthologist.’’



The Economist, 12/11

Facing the frenemy

‘SOMETIMES it seems as if Google has never come across an industry it doesn’t want to disrupt. Best known for its hugely popular search engine, the internet giant has spread its tentacles into an ever-growing array of businesses, including advertising, telecoms and, most recently, digital-navigation software. The company’s habit of selling services cheaply or giving them away for free has endeared it to consumers. But its tactics have enraged competitors, who complain their new rival is out to destroy the economics of entire industries.

Such griping has been loudest in the worlds of publishing and entertainment. Although media companies are hooked on the money they mint via adverts that run on Google and its YouTube video-streaming business, many of them also accuse the search firm of commoditising their content and of undermining their profits by making it easy for marketers to track the effectiveness of online ad spend. ‘You’re fucking with the magic,’ says the boss of one big media company to Google’s founders in a memorable scene recounted at the start of Ken Auletta’s new book.

Mr Auletta, an American journalist and long-time commentator on the media industry, dismisses claims that Google’s programming wizards are to blame for putting a jinx on the media world. Instead, he places the blame squarely, and correctly, on the publishing and movie executives who failed to appreciate the speed with which the internet would sap their companies’ fortunes. They were also slow to spot that, although Google presented itself as a friend, it had all the hallmarks of a powerful enemy too. Now the frenemy has become a scapegoat for many of the industry’s self-inflicted wounds.

Mr Auletta does a respectable job of reviewing the media companies’ predicaments. He also rehearses some of the well-known elements of Google’s culture that have helped transform it from a start-up launched in a garage 11 years ago to a colossus with ambitions to become the world’s first media company with revenues of $100 billion. Among other things, these include lavish stock options, perks such as free meals and massages, and a rigorous and sometimes quirky recruitment process. (In one passage in the book, Sergey Brin, one of Google’s co-founders, asks a candidate for a senior legal position to draw up a contract for the sale of Mr Brin’s soul to the devil.)

More compelling are the book’s insights into the relationship between the members of the triumvirate that runs Google—Mr Brin, Larry Page, his co-founder, and Eric Schmidt, the chief executive, who arrived at Google several years after its launch. Brought in at the behest of venture capitalists that have backed the firm, Mr Schmidt found himself treading a delicate path between the sensibilities of the brilliant but socially awkward founders and the demands of the impatient financiers. With the help of a veteran Silicon Valley executive who acts as a coach, the three men ultimately developed an effective working relationship.

Which is just as well, for Google now faces some formidable challenges. Fast-growing social networks such as Facebook are after a much bigger chunk of online ad dollars. And Google’s size has begun to attract the attention of anti-trust watchdogs in areas such as digital book scanning, where it has ambitious plans. This hardly amounts to the end of Google’s dominance as we know it. But if the company misplays its hand, it could turn out to be the beginning of the end.’



Joy Press, Los Angeles Times, 29/11

‘Googled: The End of the World as We Know It’

‘‘Google’ has become as common a word as any in the modern vocabulary. We google phone numbers instead of picking up a phone book; we google for dirt on potential dates and celebrities; we google ourselves, to see what trace we’ve left in the digital ether. Google has become synonymous with user-friendly efficiency, via its search engine and its many free and easy-to-use offshoots. But as used in the title of Ken Auletta’s new book, ‘Googled: The End of the World as We Know It,’ the word takes on a more aggressive edge. ‘Googled’ is the sound of old media being outfoxed, slamdunked, left for dead.

Auletta, a columnist for the New Yorker and author of numerous books, steps into a crowded field; there have been at least six books about Google in the last four years. And it is a tough moment to write a book such as this, because we’re in the thick of things: It is obvious, even to the staunchest naysayers, that the Internet has altered our way of life in fundamental ways.

Not at all clear, however, is what will emerge from this turmoil. Publishers and bookstores, newspapers and magazines, movie and TV studios, ad agencies — all are struggling to find a foothold in the future. As Auletta points out, the sheer velocity of change sets this era apart from others: ‘It took telephones seventy-one years to penetrate 50 percent of American homes, electricity fifty-two years, and TV three decades. The internet reached more than 50 percent of Americans in a mere decade.’

Google can’t take credit for the technological upheaval, but founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin certainly took advantage of the possibilities. As Auletta frequently points out, this is a duo with a passion for disruption. They met while doing PhD studies at Stanford and have since applied their ruthlessly rational mind-set to questioning some of the most basic elements of contemporary life. Combine this attitude with the utopian spirit of the early Web days — Auletta frames Brin and Page as the spawn of the free-code, anti- Microsoft generation, mentioning their trips to the techno-anarchic festival Burning Man — and it’s easy to see the roots of Google’s drive to shake up the status quo.

Indeed, the whole Google story stands in opposition to any business-as-usual sensibility. The company started in a California garage with an innovative idea for a new kind of search engine but didn’t figure out how to make money until 2001, with the development of a radical new way of charging per click for small ads run next to search results. As has so often been the case with Google’s innovations, this would have major ramifications for a long-established industry.

Auletta illustrates that with an anecdote about Viacom Chief Executive Mel Karmazin’s visit to Google. The media mogul is aghast at Google’s ability to precisely track the effectiveness of ads, replacing the intangible qualities of emotion, aura and psychology with metrics and thereby demystifying the traditional ad man’s sales pitch.

Having transformed the online ad business, Google popularized cloud commuting (offering free word processing, e-mail and calendar online — great for Joe Consumer but a huge threat to software companies like Microsoft) and establishing Google News (aggregating stories from 25,000 online publications, much to the consternation of the news industry).

In his free time — Google employees get to devote 20% of their working hours to personal projects — Page assembled a machine to digitize bound books. ‘We’re going to scan all the books in the world,’ he proclaimed. The scale of the ambition is staggering, like a science fiction geek’s fantasy of a cosmic über-brain. For Page, the idea is for Google to ‘understand everything in the world and give it back to you.’

Like so many utopians, the Google visionaries have ridden roughshod over assumptions about how the world works and the fair and proper way of doing things. Intellectual property rights are merrily disregarded. As Columbia University law professor Tim Wu told Auletta, ‘If they had a copyright lawyer among their founders, they never would have started the company. The basic business of a search engine is to copy everything. . . . From day one, Google went out and copied the whole Internet.’

Putting other companies out of business by beating them at their own game is what capitalism is all about. Goo- gle’s founders, though, see themselves as do-gooders; early on, they concocted a core motto, ‘Don’t be evil.’ Still, as it’s become more of a behemoth, Google has accumulated more and more ‘frenemies,’ as Auletta incongruously puts it: Companies, as varied as old media and Microsoft, that fear or resent the online giant even as they find it necessary to cooperate.

Reading ‘Googled,’ it’s hard to know whom to root for. Executives like Karmazin come across as quaint P.T. Barnum-style hucksters whining about having their toys and easy profit margins taken away. But even though Auletta presents Google as the fearless young turk pulling the rug from under the bloated fat cats, Brin and Page come across as oddball cold fishes taking a geeky delight in dismantling existing structures because they think they can do it all better. There are occasional hints that Auletta doesn’t like them much either: In the acknowledgments, he snipes, ‘Google’s founders and many of its executives share a zeal to digitize books, but don’t have much interest in reading them,’ noting that Brin and Page initially thought that participating in his book ‘would be an ‘inefficient’ use of their time.’

Auletta suggests that the company runs into trouble because it is so wrapped up in the idea of itself as virtuous that it can’t understand others’ concerns about privacy or monopoly issues. There is, however, a strong idealistic component to Google: It provides quality services to the consumer that don’t cost a dime. ‘You can’t beat free’ is a constant refrain here. And yet, for all that consumers love Google, workers — especially those employed in the industries they’ve outmoded — could be forgiven for being wary.

‘Googled’ functions as a fine primer for anyone looking to get a grip on the company’s history and its repercussions on the current media landscape. The prose is workmanlike, and Auletta doesn’t have a polemical take, let alone any prophesies. Mostly he asks questions: Will consumers happily give up their privacy for free services? Will we still be reading books in 20 years, or going to movie theaters? Can advertising work on social networks? Will the government intervene and rein in the Internet? He doesn’t have answers but maybe no one does right now. As Clay Shirky has eloquently noted, ‘The old stuff gets broken faster than the new stuff is put in its place.’ And when someone seeks reassurance that the good old media ways will continue, ‘they are really demanding to be told that we are not living through a revolution.’

Press is writer in New York who has worked in both old and new media.’



Rich Karlgaard, Forbes, 23/11

Leadership Lessons From Google

‘Ken Auletta owes me. I’ve purchased his new book, Googled, twice in the last 72 hours. The first was the Kindle version. Then, of course, I forgot to pack my Kindle charger for a road trip. The battery ran out, and there I sat at the Dallas airport, facing a three-hour flight with nothing to read. So I bought the old-fashioned hardback version of Googled at the airport’s Barnes & Noble outlet. Do they really charge $27.95 for hardbacks? I had forgotten. Well, Googled does have a nice Milton Glaser-designed cover.

To cut to the quick, Googled is terrific. You can read reviews here and here.

What struck me is that Googled is also a fine textbook on leadership. The story of how Google ( GOOG – news – people ) founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page came to accept Eric Schmidt as an equal in the CEO suite is well-known, but Auletta adds much new detail about Schmidt’s own coming-of-age as CEO. His start was inauspicious:

‘The appointment [to CEO] was greeted with some skepticism,’ Auletta writes. ‘They sneered at the Mercedes he drove, the suits and ties he wore. They wondered whether he had the right skill sets. ‘No one from his previous jobs,’ said one industry insider, ‘would say that Eric was an inspirational leader, a greater speaker or salesman, a take-charge leader like Paul Otellini, Carol Bartz of Autodesk ( ADSK – news – people ), or John Chambers of Cisco ( CSCO – news – people ).’

Schmidt had been a successful chief technology officer at Sun in its glory days. But he had performed poorly in his one stint as a CEO at Novell ( NOVL – news – people ). Still, venture capitalist and Google board member John Doerr had a hunch that Schmidt’s patient engineering management style was exactly what was needed at Google.

Doerr’s pick looked like a loser at first. Brin and Page continually tested Schmidt’s authority and would gossip about him behind his back. Another high-powered venture capitalist on Google’s board thought Schmidt lacked toughness. As Google struggled to make its advertising formula work in 2001 and 2002, Michael Moritz of Sequoia Capital was growing impatient. Auletta writes: ‘Moritz was skeptical that Schmidt was the right man to bully [the revenue plan] through Google.’

I think Eric’s profile is consistent with James O’Toole’s definition of leadership. ‘A leader is a person who helps their followers achieve their goals.’ Steve Barrager

Dysfunctional is the best way to describe Google in 2001. What got the company on track was Doerr’s second good pick, that of bringing in Silicon Valley’s best-known management coach.

Auletta writes: ‘Help came in the form of Bill Campbell, then sixty-one, a barrel-chested man known throughout Silicon Valley as ‘the coach.’ At one time Columbia University’s head football coach, had also been a senior executive at Apple ( AAPL – news – people ) and CEO of several Valley companies’ including Intuit ( INTU – news – people ).

Campbell’s role was instrumental in lowering the temperature between two competing factions: Schmidt and the founders; and the alpha VCs Doerr and Moritiz.

Moritz later explained: ‘Bill’s contribution was to take the emotion out of decisions. He’s seen as a neutral source and a fair man. You had two founders in their twenties and Eric was 20 years older, and you had to make that relationship work between people who did not know each other. It was natural that the founders would be suspicious. There were bumps in the beginning that Bill helped smooth over.’

The rest is history. Google reached $1 billion in revenue in six years, 10 years faster than Microsoft ( MSFT – news – people ). It did $22.6 billion in its most recent fiscal year. The mild-mannered Schmidt grew to be a superman CEO, winning over Brin, Page and the ever-skeptical Moritz, who now says he is a ‘fully paid-up member in the Eric Schmidt fan club.’

I liked Auletta’s book Googled on many levels, but the leadership lessons alone are worth the book’s price–even the full $27.95 at an airport bookshop.’





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