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Dion Dimucci

Lester Bangs in Buffalo

Lester Bangs in "Almost Famous"

The Cure In Concert

Peal Jam In Concert

History of Warner Brothers Music

Creolina's Cajun/Creole

People's Bar-B-Que and Soul Food

Penn Dutch Food Center


Originally published on Monday, September 26, 2005 in The Miami Herald

Searching for insights from Google's success.
Popular search site and stock market wonder Google has changed the way we access information and, in many ways, our culture.

The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture. John Battelle. Portfolio. 311 pages.
Buy The Search
The Internet has engendered two killer applications -- e-mail and search.
E-mail is kind of obvious; it attracts users by enabling fast, easy and cheap communication. But search? It's only obvious in hindsight. Who would have foreseen that finding websites with specific content would be the single most important aspect of the Net -- and the most lucrative?

When I first started using the Web in the mid-90s, just about everyone I knew used Yahoo as their home page because it helped them decide where they wanted to go. Yahoo was -- and is, now more than ever -- a portal, an entrance to other things. Among them is a place to search for other sites, including those not associated with their own.

Google started out as a search site, but unlike Yahoo and other sites offering search capabilities, Google's owners realized that there were enormous business opportunities inherent in leveraging each user's search.

Google is a made-up word, a whimsical derivation of the term ''googol,'' a one followed by a hundred zeroes. But now it not only refers to the Internet site and corporation that owns it, it has also become a verb that's synonymous with searching. Feel free to Google yourself (or me, if you like). You'll be surprised what comes up. In fact, many singles wouldn't dream of going on a first date with someone they hadn't first Googled.

Journalist and entrepreneur John Battelle's new book about Google is a surprisingly entertaining and engaging lesson on how and why the establishment, growth and dominance of the company portends a revolutionary shift in commerce, at the very least.

Savvy marketers like Seth Godin have declared the death of intrusive advertising, and Battelle presents a vivid and persuasive case for Google's role in its demise.

Along the way, he provides necessary lessons on the challenges and opportunities inherent in any Silicon Valley start-up, before and after the burst bubble of 2001, as well as a primer on Google's business and competition.

A gifted writer and journalist, he breathes life into short portraits of the Google principles and the people who traversed parallel paths of innovation.

Before Google, most search sites based their findings solely on content. If, for instance, you sought information on horseshoes, your results were based on how many times documents mentioned horseshoes.

But Google, started by a couple of Stanford graduate students, was inspired by academic papers, which used citations for references. The innovation they offered was a method of ranking sites based on how they are linked from other sites. Along with additional factors, Google's founders devised a set of criteria, expressed as a mathematical algorithm, that delivered superior search results and was more likely to yield sites that others had found useful.

Battelle's prose is as non-geeky and jargon-free as possible, but technorati are sure to find much that will appeal to them here, as will those of us who want to know the business side of things, too. The author's combination of knowledge and curiosity makes The Search a real find.

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