04 July 2011

Post 400: I'm Feeling Lucky

I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 by Douglas Edwards. ISBN: 9780547416991 (eGalley - publishes July 12, 2011*)

Although I didn't start using Google on a regular basis until maybe around 2002, Edwards started at Google at about the same time I started using the internet. He was about 40 when he started at Google, and I was about 14, in a way, I grew up with the internet; he ain't heavy, ya'll, he's my brother. I thought it might be interesting to do a little Internet History of my own, for my younger readers who have no concept of the internet without Google. And us old fogies can count our blessings that someone besides librarians recognized the value of search.

1998, Google started up as a company rather than the sitcom-like "Two Guys in a Dorm Room" thing. At this point the internet was just on my radar. In fact, I had no idea how email worked and I vaguely remember my brother showing me how to sign up for an email account. I was 13. Our keyboarding teacher managed to teach us a bit of HTML, which I believe was pretty progressive at the time and it was pretty much the first in-school computer lab I remember having access to.

By 1999 I was a regular user of Yahoo! services, mostly their chat and email. I would occasionally play Backgammon with men from Turkey who were very distraught to find they had been beaten by a 14 year-old American girl. I'm pretty sure Yahoo! search was my major go-to point, although I probably used HotBot and Altavista as well. At this point, chat was still pretty new and hadn't been taken over by spambots, so I actually managed to meet quite a few people from all walks of life. I even used Yahoo! classifieds (before it was 18+) to find a friend or two. Parents everywhere are mortified by that statement, but it worked out okay. Google had moved into its first Palo Alto offices.

By 2000, we were using AOL and finally had our own computer that was capable of accessing the internet (Dial-up, friends, dial-up). It was a Compaq, haha, remember those guys? It cost about $2000. Within a few months we would switch service providers because AOL sucks balls. At this point Yahoo! had begun using Google for their search (Yahoo! was technically a directory at that point and so you had to have some kind of search know-how). I'm not sure if I noticed then, but I had little need for more than the simplest of searches as most people were not using the internet to make purchases yet, and social networks weren't a big thing. I was still mostly using the internet for chat.

In 2001 I had switched from the public school to a magnet program. I often arrived at school early enough that I would go to one of two or three computers in the library and I would hang out with a friend searching the internet and checking email. At this point I'm pretty sure Google was on my radar. I was still using a Yahoo! email account and a Hotmail account. I was also running two websites on Angelfire with my minimal HTML skills: one for my angsty poetry and the other for my church Youth Group (this was before their pop-up ads became mandatory). I'm pretty sure that one still exists, but I've long since forgotten the password and the email account is no longer active. Word. Google created their image search in the latter half of 2001; this improved my life greatly as I could now search for images when I needed them to add to my website rather than stockpiling what I thought I might need.

Google news rolled around in 2002, shortly after September 11th made everyone realize that an aggregated news system might actually be awesome. I had moved to Mississippi and freaking hated my life. But Google searches made everything better and it was becoming more acceptable to actually cite online sources in research papers. Although we still primarily relied on print resources, Academic Search Complete was available to us. I don't believe most of the results had full text though, so in some cases it was still more "convenient" to use a print index. OMG, you kids have NO IDEA, so quit your whining that libraries don't have everything full text and go photocopy some shit.

In 2003, I pretty much stopped using everything on Yahoo! except for their messenger. Hotmail was my primary email account, and I'm fairly certain I dropped Yahoo! in favor of making my Antioch College email address my "non-spam" account. Hotmail's spam filter was slightly better than Yahoo!'s, but that was a bit like saying it was better to be eaten by a piranha than a shark. Google acquired Blogger, but I was still over on Livejournal. I still have my account, but only because some of my friends still occasionally post there, and a webcomic I really like only uses LJ to post updates.

I got my Gmail account in 2004. I must have been a fairly early adopter because I vaguely remember begging someone for an invite, not to mention I chose an email address based on a pet name given to me by a boyfriend. Google pushed out Gmail in April 2004. By July I had broken up with him, but was already so attached to my email account I couldn't change addresses (because SO MUCH is connected to it). I still have the same email address even though I haven't had the boyfriend for 7 years, more than 3x longer than I was with him.

In 2005 I went overseas and email was my primary contact with what was going on at my college. I was also taking classes online with my super amazing academic advisor, and working as a volunteer and co-op student in a military library, so not only was I using their internet to keep in touch, but also for research, for my classes as well as the occasional patron. At that time our small village didn't have broadband and apparently Germans are concerned about what effect satellite waves might have so that was also not an option (also it was brand new and expensive). Google Maps was created and was by far superior to Mapquest, although I still think "Mapquest" when I think of online directions. Stupid branding.

I won't cover the next five years, because that's where the book ends and this is already a long post. I will tell you I didn't get in to social networking until my second to last semester at undergrad (Summer 2006), this blog is just under a year old, and I didn't start Twitter until maybe four months ago. But it kind of makes you think where we'd be without Google. I kind of wonder if it would be as powerful a tool as it is today without the dedication their engineers have put in to providing such a strong search tool. So thank you, Google, for providing me with better access to information.

My review can be found on Goodreads.
LibsNote: Review copy provided by NetGalley.
*Appears to be available as Kindle eBook already, and possiblly through other digital eBook providers.
**Check out Google's Timeline, they also have a bunch of their Doodles, a fair number that I remember.

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