I just finished reading Planet Google. It was interesting to read the history of something that I thought I had lived through. It turns out that my view of Google has been somewhat myopic, as I have been almost completely focused on their search engine and AdSense divisions.
Randall's narrative takes the jumble of events in my mind and gives them a meaningful time-line over the last decade. I didn't recall, for example, that Google Answers predated Yahoo Answers by three years.
It was also very interesting to discover that Google began work on Gmail long before they began work on AdSense, and that the technology underlying the AdSense was an almost accidental side-effect of Google's research into semantic analysis for the purpose of displaying ads to Gmail members.
I even discovered a Google service that I did not know about, Sky in Google Earth, which gives people a view of distant stars and galaxies.
The book also gives a seemingly meaningful time-line to events which seemed to me to happen almost simultaneously:
1999 – LiveJournalThis, of course, makes me wonder what 2006-2008 will look like after we have had a few years to evaluate them. Who will be the most important new website of each of those years? (Yes, I realize that Stross seems to have overlooked MySpace.)
2000 – HOTorNOT
2001 – Wikipedia
2002 – Friendster
2003 – del.icio.us
2004 – Flickr
2005 – YouTube
Most surprisingly, the book talked a lot about Facebook and the rivalry between the two companies. The book made me want to look more deeply into Facebook.