Never Lost Again by Bill Kilday [Book Summary – Review]

Do you remember the previous time you missed the road? It is possible that you’ve not been in such a situation in a long time if you have a phone that has Google Maps installed on it. As a matter of fact, the next era after this might not even know how it feels like being lost. It is all thanks to Google, the next generation will know how to navigate where they are heading to and precisely the location they are. 

However, Google Earth as well as Google Maps were not something that happened all of a sudden. Rather, the account of these applications goes back as far as the days of Keyhole, which is a Silicon Valley start-up that hardly stood the financial hardship after the dot-com bubble. 

in this book, we will start with Bill Kilday’s (Keyhole’s product and marketing director) small space in Mountain View, California, and how he moved into the fine office space of Googleplex. Furthermore, we will learn about the beginnings of the technology that has ensured that we will never miss our routes again.

In this book, you will discover

  • how Keyhole assisted in unraveling a barbaric murder case;
  • the reason the Iraq conflict was a trigger in the creation of digital mapping; and also
  • how it was working in Google during the mid-2000s. 

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Chapter 1 – At the start of the Google Maps narrative is a small start-up known as Keyhole.

Bill Kilday received a call from his old school friend on a particularly warm spring in the year 1999. The friend was John Hanke, an intelligent genius Kilday had come across since his first year at the University of Texas. John wanted Bill to see something so bad. 

Later on that same day, Bill together with his fiancee, Shelley witnessed as John put up a computer in that empty room. There was the earth showing on the screen on the computer with a blue speck in a dark area. Initially, Bill and Shelley were not excited about it; however, they saw as John kept zooming in and in. 

Just like Superman, it flew to the North American continent, after it flew to the United States of America, it then went to Austin, Texas, till they started seeing the roof of Bill’s house. Then Bill and Shelley became amazed. 

This display, known as the EarthViewer, would evolve into Google Earth and Google Maps one day. Although, now, the technology was owned by Keyhole, a tiny Silicon Valley start-up. 

Keyhole lately chose John Hanke as their CEO. He directed a group of skilled software engineers from a small space in Mountain View, California. Since John saw the ability of the EarthViewer project, the firm channeled its entire endeavors on ensuring that it flourishes. 

The goal of Keyhole was to develop EarthViewer software that would work on any computer device in the globe. However, that goal would need to hold on, the reason being that the technology would not permit such yet. 

Data collection is one aspect where they would make advancement without any hindrance. Nonetheless, mapping the worth needed a whole lot of data.

Initially, Keyhole used Blue Marble which was supplied by NASA and it is a collection of free satellite pictures. However, not too long after, they discovered that acquiring higher-resolution pictures entailed utilizing images obtained from modern imaging satellites or low-flying planes.

This discovery directed Keyhole’s attention to Airphoto USA, a business operated by a biker called J. R. Robertson, known for his long hair and love of alcohol. J. R. Robertson oversaw a fleet of fourteen planes, this rebellious CEO had previously mapped numerous major cities. Keyhole, armed with contact to these photos, started the operation of mapping the entire universe.

Chapter 2 – Keyhole thrived during the dot-com bubble by attracting a wide range of clients.

In the year 2001, the dot-com bubble exploded, and the entire hope of the 1990s changed into dread since investors took out their savings from the stock market. For numerous internet and technology companies, this marks their demise.

Start-ups such as Keyhole required the gain the trust of venture capitalists. However, during that period, there was a really small faith belief to circulate. Therefore, in order to control the situation, Keyhole changed direction.

Targeting one-on-one consumers was the first concept for EarthViewer. Then Keyhole decided to go beyond that and put on sale its newly formed program to different types of customers as well. 

Firstly, Keyhole changed into the real estate field. Workers started going to trade shows, and they presented EarthViewer from their booth.

During one of these occasions, Bill Kilday, who had assumed the role of Keyhole’s product as well as the marketing director, left a real estate developer in awe by presenting the Nicaraguan beach he had an interest in. Bill kept zooming in and out to showcase the white sands and untouched jungle in the vicinity, illustrating how anybody looking for a new house could conduct their search conveniently from their office. The potential was astounding.

Additionally, Keyhole got government clients as well. For example, San Bernardino County in Southern California started making use of EarthViewer for terrain surveys while battling forest fires.

One of the most notable applications of EarthViewer occurred at the Santa Clara district attorney’s office during their investigation of Scott Peterson. It was suspected that Scott killed his wife who was pregnant. To monitor his movements, investigators discreetly placed a GPS tracker beneath his truck’s rear bumper and dug up what he did for numerous weeks after the disappearance of his wife.

Keyhole processed this tracking data using the EarthViewer program. This not only enabled them to know the locations visited by Scott Peterson’s truck but it also allowed them to analyze the duration and speed of his journeys. They discovered that he repeatedly returned to the Berkeley Marina, where he cruised along the shoreline at a really slow pace. Several weeks later, the body of his wife washed up on that same shore, leading to Scott Peterson’s murder conviction.

With a diverse range of applications like these, Keyhole managed to thrive whereas other tech firms vanished as the dot-com exploded.

Chapter 3 – The invasion of Iraq led by the United States drastically changed the future of course.

In the year 2003, the United States attacked Iraq. George W. Bush who was the president then mentioned the “shock and awe” as bombs exploded in Baghdad. As the universe accepted this military hostility, Keyhole was on the brink of a significant change.

On the 27th of March in year 2003, David Kornmann one of the workers of Keyhole, arrived at the office, brewed a pot of coffee, and came across a fax that had arrived overnight. To his surprise, it was a signed contract from CNN valued at $75,000. 

The cable news network intended to use EarthViewer as an aspect of its coverage of the fight in Iraq. It wouldn’t be long before the rest of the universe adopted it as well.

Although the financial offer wasn’t that substantial, John Hanke agreed to it with one condition: that CNN put Keyhole’s URL every time they made use of EarthViewer on air. This provision in the contract compensated way beyond the initial small amount.

Later on, that same evening, CNN introduced a different eight o’clock section as a portion of its all-day coverage of the Iraq war. During this section, reporter Miles O’Brien switched to a map animation.

Rather than using a normal pre-made video, O’Brien utilized Keyhole’s EarthViewer to zoom all around Baghdad. He presented recent satellite images that showed the huge damage caused by the bombings across the city. was plainly shown In the upper-right corner.

As the CNN segment was broadcast, the Keyhole website experienced a surge in traffic as a result of several individuals visiting the site. The feedback was really massive that Keyhole’s servers remained inaccessible for most of the following day.

Instantly, Keyhole found itself featured in prominent magazines as well as newspapers, such as Newsweek and the New York Times. Globally, the need for EarthViewer skyrocketed.

Amidst all these developments, Keyhole entered into an agreement with In-Q-Tel, a venture capital fund managed by the CIA. In-Q-Tel was established to provide financial support to businesses that could serve the interests of the U.S. government.

Understandably, Keyhole’s EarthViewer had pivotal applications for brilliant operations. Consequently, In-Q-Tel proposed a contract valued at $1.5 million, aiming to have a customized, private aspect of the EarthViewer system developed.

While this was the most financially rewarding contract the startup had secured thus far, it would soon be overshadowed by an even larger opportunity.

Chapter 4 – Google elevated its search capabilities to a new stage with its acquisition of Keyhole in the year 2004.

One day in the year 2004 in April, after work, John Hanke together with Bill Kilday headed out for drinks a. Prior to reaching the bar, John confided in Bill that he had a secret to tell him. The secret was so huge that Bill could not tell any soul not even his partner.

After ensuring that no one could hear them, John moved closer to Bill and shared the secret: “Google is interested in buying us.”

Bill was surprised. Google had recently talked about its plans to go public, and the tech giant was worth  $27 billion. However, Bill was puzzled as well. What is the reason behind a search engine firm wishing to purchase Keyhole? Google wasn’t known for its mapping services. Or were they?

The history commenced at Google’s office during a meeting that was attended by executives and the focus was on Picasa, the firm’s photo-editing application. Midway through the meeting, Sergey Brin who was Google’s co-founder made an appearance after playing volleyball on the firm’s sand court.

He opened his laptop and started looking at something that was sent to him by another worker. The manager presenting observed that Brin wasn’t focusing and inquired if he could share the matter that had captured his interest.

Brin took the projector that was previously used by the manager and displayed Keyhole’s EarthViewer to the people in the room. The executives were taken aback. Brin said directly without trying to give a reason as to why it is a business approach “We should acquire this firm.”

And so John Hanke linked up with Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, at the company headquarters. Walking into the founders’ shared office at the Googleplex, Hanke saw a room filled with deconstructed toys, hockey sticks, and dirty athletic clothes. Clearly, they didn’t depict the image of normal business CEOs.

Hanke inquired about the founders’ perspective on how EarthViewer could align with Google’s business strategy. Page responded by indicating that EarthViewer had the potential to become an essential element of Google’s core operations.

As a matter of fact, the EarthViewer idea would perfectly complement Google’s search engine, as both were essentially methods for sorting out data. While the search engine connected individuals to the most important websites, the mapping program would connect them to all the details about a specific city or a particular street.

Page as well as Brin envisioned a future where this mapping technology would bring about a transformative impact, and that’s precisely what transpired.

Chapter 5 – The Keyhole team, together with skilled Google workers, developed Google Maps.

Soon enough, Keyhole agreed to Google’s contract and signed it. All 29 members of Keyhole’s team were employed by Google.

All of them were told to come to Googleplex, which is Google’s luxurious business headquarters, and they all got their identification badges as Google workers. As they checked around, the Keyhole team could sense that things were about to change significantly.

Google’s office was far better in terms of comfortability compared to the worker’s office at Keyhole.

In order to get to their workplace, the workers at Google had access to a shuttle service that was free of charge and moved around the San Francisco Bay Area, together with a juice bar and a barista to welcome them upon arrival at the headquarters. Additionally, they had the option of using bicycles, electric scooters, as well as Segways for transportation. 

Within their office, the workers had a continuous supply of fresh juice, and jars stocked with candy, chips, and nuts that were available anytime they wanted it. Furthermore, amenities like a gym, swimming pool, and a beach volleyball court were on-site. Not to mention, there was even a dedicated space for massages!

In all Google buildings, there was also a Techstop, where Google workers could take whatever electrical tool they needed for free – this included chargers, computer cases, Wi-Fi routers, and software amongst other things

Following their introduction, It was now time for the Keyhole team to begin work. Creation of Google Maps was their first task and it required three different groups. 

The first group was the actual Keyhole team, and they transformed the assembled aerial and satellite imaging into a browser viewer. After, it was now the turn of the Danish siblings Lars and Jens Rasmussen, whose startup called Where2Tech had been bought by Google too, to perform their duty.

The Rasmussen siblings introduced their “prerendering” technique to digital mapping, enabling the program to anticipate which areas of a map a user might want to view next, ensuring fast loading. The Rasmussens invented the “map view” together with a skilled young programmer called Bret Taylor,

Lastly, Google employees Dan Egnor together with Elizabeth Harmon were responsible for creating the most recent “point data.” This ensured that the location information for shops, cafes, and businesses remained precise and current whenever someone conducted a search.

In cooperation with their fellow developers, the Keyhole team successfully brought Google Maps into existence.

Chapter 6 – Google Maps stirred a revolution both in information and in commercials.

Google Maps made its official debut in February 2005, marking the beginning of its widespread popularity and earning praise from both the people as well as the media.

In addition to its mainstream appeal, web developers as well as the business industry also embraced the platform. This was largely due to the fact that Google Maps was seen as a catalyst for innovation, with its full potential only just starting to be recognized.

Much of this attraction stemmed from Google’s unique strategy for its technology. Rather than solely concentrating on short-term gains, Google was particularly invested in expanding the realm of information and the opportunities that accompanied it. This principle is the reason why Google Maps was freely accessible and easily adaptable to suit various needs.

Shortly after its launch, inventive web developers swiftly embarked on tailoring Google Maps to suit their specific needs. A notable case is Paul Rademacher who was an animator employed by DreamWorks. Frustrated by his months-long search for fair-priced housing in the San Francisco Bay Area, he resolved to take matters into his own hands.

Upon the rollout of Google Maps, he delved into the intricacies of the website’s code and embarked on crafting his personalized style of the platform. In a remarkably short period of three days, he introduced a website named, which presented a comprehensive listing of every available rental property in the region.

Additional innovators created adaptations of Google Maps that depicted various data, such as crime data in Chicago, instances of police brutality in Los Angeles, bicycle accidents in Portland, as well as logging activities in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Although certain independent web developers were merging their data with that of Google and tailoring the result for particular reasons, there were also those who took things a bit further. These people were complete commercial businesses that became totally dependent on Google Maps.

Consider the likes of Lyft,, Strava, Uber, Zillow and Yelp. A number of these enterprises would eventually turn into multi-billion dollar businesses. Also, they developed their whole company framework relying on a computer program that was offered by Google without charge.

Chapter 7 – Google’s mapping technology has always been a great positive influence.

Google has constantly been a unique type of company. For a long period, its slogan was “Don’t Be Evil,” encapsulating both the company’s mission and the philosophy of its user-focused goods.

Google’s aim became obvious to the Keyhole group members when they united. In the year 2004, it was even very obvious to Bill Kilday, that he came to the realization after two events that Google’s mapping technology had the potential to save human lives. 

One of the events that happened first came in during the year 2005 in August. In August, Hurricane Katrina struck the eastern United States, hitting and causing huge damage to New Orleans with the city suffering brunt of the flooding.  At that moment, the group of people working at Google recognized they needed to offer assistance. 

John Hanke reached out to an aerial imagery pilot operating over New Orleans. Following this, he instructed his team to directly integrate the pilot’s fresh data into Google Maps as well as Google Earth. This newly acquired imaging offered displaced residents of New Orleans an up-to-date view of their desolated city.

Google’s actual impact became evident several days later when Bill Kilday received a voicemail from Ron Shroeder, who is a staff sergeant associated with a medevac team collaborating with the Coast Guard’s helicopter fleet. Shroeder explained how the Coast Guard was employing Google Earth to rescue numerous individuals in the flooded city of New Orleans.

When individuals stranded on their rooftops or in their lofts dialed 911, they offered their street addresses. However, during a severe flood, giving out a street address wasn’t significant. Consequently, the Coast Guard team would input the house address into Google Earth to retrieve the GPS coordinates. They would then transmit this data via radio to the search helicopter, facilitating the caller’s rescue.

The second incident that left an impression on Bill Kilday occurred later that year. In the month of October, Bill came across  Rebecca Moore, an environmental activist who had sought a meeting with the firm. She had been utilizing Google Earth to fight disastrous logging operations in the mountains of Santa Cruz.

With the use of Google Earth, Moore showed her community the extent of the planned logging, assuming if it was implemented, would have resulted in the destruction of vast acres of valuable redwood trees. Her compelling presentation, together with three-dimensional representations of log-carrying helicopters, swayed the people of her community to refuse the suggested logging project. Google was really captivated by Moore’s creative approach that they employed her to carry out Google Earth outreach.

These remarkable uses of Google Earth were beyond anyone’s expectations, particularly the Keyhole team that initiated the process of mapping the world many years ago. Nevertheless, one thing is certain: a lot of individuals are grateful for their contributions.

Never Lost Again: The Google Mapping Revolution That Sparked New Industries and Augmented Our Reality Bill Kilday Book Review

Google Earth as well as Google Maps roots can be traced back to a small California tech startup known as Keyhole. Following their successful navigation through the dot-com bubble, Keyhole gained recognition when CNN adopted its EarthViewer program during the time of the Iraq conflict. Google’s acquisition of Keyhole in 2005 paved the way for the continued development of the mapping software, eventually giving rise to Google Maps and Google Earth. These applications have had a profound impact on the world globally, affecting various aspects of our lives, from how we operate our business to disaster management and beyond.

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Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I like reading books and writing summaries. I like to play soccer too :) Good Reads Profile:

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