An insider’s look at the growth of Google from the perspective of a former employee.
Given Google’s current dominance of search, it can be difficult to remember a drastically different Internet landscape. Edwards, the director of consumer marketing and brand management for Google from 1999 to 2005, describes not only the growth of a startup into a publicly traded behemoth but also the development of an iconic brand. The author found that the leadership at Google did not take kindly to traditional marketing strategies (i.e., anything that cost money) and, in fact, wasn’t too keen on much of anything traditional at all. This generated an incredible amount of innovation and, at times, a considerable amount of frustration for Edwards. “This book,” he writes, “tells how it felt to be subjected to the g-force of a corporate ascent without precedent, to find myself in an environment where the old rules didn’t apply and where relying on what I knew to be true almost got me fired.” Confidence in good ideas, he writes, could quickly morph into arrogance or bad management, and the author’s insider point of view sheds light on the problems the company faced—and still faces—regarding user privacy and copyright issues. Edwards takes a broad view throughout the narrative and addresses Google history and workplace culture as well as marketing. His perspective as an early employee is valuable and unique, but it also occasionally pulls attention from his area of expertise. Given the availability of other books on general Google history (see Steven Levy’s In the Plex, among others), the author might have been better off limiting his scope. When he addresses engineering issues, the subject matter is such that tech-savvy readers may find the level of technical detail insufficient, while casual readers may be overwhelmed. Like the company itself, Edwards never takes himself too seriously, and the somewhat goofy tone occasionally becomes grating.
Could have used more focus, but the former "voice of Google" provides a detailed, quirky and expansive half-memoir/half-historical record.