In The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture
John Battelle looks at the development of internet search engines. Starting in the early days with Yahoo starting as a list of sites, and Alta Vista as a program to demonstrate DEC hardware, he explains how search was considered unimportant - what businesses were aiming at was the status of a portal
. Then the internet bubble burst, but somehow Google managed to buck the trend and make a rapidly growing business out of pure search.
Battelle doesn't just look at the history of internet businesses, he also examines what people want out of search engines, with the final chapter looking to the future of search. I felt that the book lacked focus a bit here. This wouldn't have been so much of a problem when it was published, but it is over two years old now, and that's a long time in search engine history. I feel it would have survived the test of time better if Battelle had looked more critically at the issues - is it time, for instance, for a return to human edited databases, moving away from the purely algorithmic approach which gave Google such success. If you're interested in a broad overview of the issues of search, though, then you may well find this book worth reading