Never lost again is how the Google Maps changed the world. I have traveled enough before the mobile phone era and smartphone era. Now, I can not imagine traveling or even planning to travel without Google Maps. Having said that, how many of us have thought of the journey of this ubiquitous app from a thought to our mobile screens. Just think of the industries this freely available interactive maps have led to – think Uber.

When I came to know of this book, I knew I have to read it. It is bound to be a fascinating journey. I wanted to know how John Hanke thought of this idea to map the world and how Google managed to keep it free for the humanity. The book does not disappoint despite Bill Kilday’s disclaimer that it is not a complete book on Google Maps but just his perspective of how it was to be part of the two most popular products in the world.

Never Lost Again by Bill Kilday
Never Lost Again by Bill Kilday

Google Mapping Revolution

Not many people would know that the core of Google Maps is a product that was born as Earth Viewer at a company called Keyhole, that lived for a short while not too far from Google headquarters. Author Bill Kilday writes about the journey of his small-town college mate John Hanke. Incidentally, the two worked together throughout their careers that included creating Augmented Reality game Pokémon Go that wants to make people meet in the real world.

Being a marketing man Bill Kilday, keep the technological details away in ‘Never Lost Again’. He chooses to talk about the people involved in creating the product, followed by the impact of the product. He takes you through the struggles of a start-up that requires a lot of capital to sustain itself. And then he talks about the awe with which people watched the images that could zoom down to their street level.

Never Lost Again: The Google Mapping Revolution That Sparked New Industries and Augmented Our Reality Amazon.

What I liked most about the book is its title – Never Lost Again. The author begins the book by saying we may be the last generation to ever get lost. From now on, you will be Never Lost Again. Although, I assume he has not traveled to parts of the world, where it is not too difficult to get lost even today.

I also liked the second part of the book after Keyhole was acquired by Google. The change of mindset that the team required to go is fascinating to read. Not sure, if the author intended it, but he very nicely brings out the differences between the two. From being a small close-knit team where every member is indispensable to being a part of a large ocean. The sheer scale of things and thoughts changes. Like Bill asked Google founders do they want 10 Million dollars in revenue or 10 million users and the answer he got was – Think Big.

Bill candidly talks about the power struggles at Google, especially with reference to Marissa Meyers. From his perspective, it seems she was quite unpopular. Or maybe, it was the Keyhole team that was finding it difficult to accept her authority.

Behind the Scene stories of Google

There are lots of behind the scenes stories of Google like the launch of Google Maps on iPhone by Steve Jobs. Or the launch of Blue Dot that tells you your current location. Or, the hustling that went on to name the product Google Maps instead of Google local. I did not know that Google actually has satellites picking up data for its maps.

The amount of effort, collaborations, buyouts that happened to get data for Google Maps is mind-boggling. It is a story of one killer product that can give you all the freedom in the world to do anything that you like. I loved the fact that in the list of Google Priorities, making money was not in the top 10. I guess it is only when you have a vision larger than just making money can you create something of this scale.

Overall, it is an interesting read, well written. People who are not much interested in core technology aspect of the product would really enjoy. I think marketing people would find it fascinating.

If you use Google Maps, you should read this book just to get a glimpse of the mammoth effort that went into creating this product. Do that before you forget how to ask directions.

Read it.

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