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How Google Book Search Got Lost

Scott Rosenberg on Google Books:

…Google started Books with a “better ask forgiveness than permission” attitude that’s common today in the world of startups. In a sense, the company behaved like the Uber of intellectual property — a kind of read-sharing service — while expecting to be seen the way it saw itself, as a beneficent pantheon of wizards serving the entire human species. It was naive, and the stubborn opposition it aroused came as a shock.

But Google took away a lesson that helped it immeasurably as it grew and gained power: Engineering is great, but it’s not the answer to all problems. Sometimes you have to play politics, too — consult stakeholders, line up allies, compromise with rivals. As a result, Google assembled a crew of lobbyists and lawyers and approached other similar challenges — like navigating YouTube’s rights maze — with greater care and better results. It grew up. It came to understand that it could shoot for the moon, but it wouldn’t always get there.