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In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives | [Steven Levy]

In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives

Few companies in history have ever been as successful and as admired as Google, the company that has transformed the Internet and become an indispensable part of our lives. How has Google done it? Veteran technology reporter Steven Levy was granted unprecedented access to the company, and in this revelatory book he takes listeners inside Google headquarters - the Googleplex - to explain how Google works.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Don't be evil. That's Google's official motto. But what's really going on behind that simple little search box? Wired's Steven Levy guides us through a history of the rise of the internet, the development of complicated search algorithms, and, in many ways, a who's who of Silicon Valley — all beautifully narrated by L.J. Ganser.

What started as two geeks obsessed with improving internet search engines rapidly ballooned into a company eager to gobble up other useful startups (Keyhole Inc., YouTube, Picassa) as well as larger, more obviously valuable companies (most notably the marketing goliath, DoubleClick). Google's strategy has also been a game-changer in regards to the way we use data and cloud computing. Thanks to its highly lucrative AdWords and AdSense programs, the company exploded the way people think about the internet and the way people think about making money on the internet.

In the Plex gives listeners a real idea of what it's like to exist within the company's quirky culture. And Ganser knows when to keep it serious, but that doesn't stop him from adding just the right amount of snark to the “like” and “um”-ridden quotations from various engineer types. This edition also includes a fascinating interview between the author and early hire Marissa Mayer, the youngest woman to ever make Fortune's "50 Most Powerful Women in Business" list.

Levy dedicates a large section of the book to Google's controversial actions in China, the ultimate test of the company's “don't be evil” philosophy. Here, In the Plex takes an unexpected turn from company profile to a technology coming-of-age story for notorious “founder kids” Larry Page and Sergey Brin. How does “don't be evil” play out in a real world that is sometimes, well, evil? Results are mixed.

In addition to China, Levy touches on some of Google's failures, flubs, and flops, like the company's book scanning project and its development of Google Wave and Google Buzz. However, he seems to miss the point when he makes excuses for their inability to compete in the social space. It seems particularly obvious why a corporation completely run by data-obsessed engineers would have trouble making inroads in the world of social media, which is by nature more organic and subtle.

From the early days as a gonzo-style startup to the massive corporate giant that has quickly integrated itself into almost everything we do, this is an essential history of Google. —Gina Pensiero

Publisher's Summary

Few companies in history have ever been as successful and as admired as Google, the company that has transformed the Internet and become an indispensable part of our lives. How has Google done it? Veteran technology reporter Steven Levy was granted unprecedented access to the company, and in this revelatory book he takes listeners inside Google headquarters - the Googleplex - to explain how Google works.

While they were still students at Stanford, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin revolutionized Internet search. They followed this brilliant innovation with another, as two of Google's earliest employees found a way to do what no one else had: make billions of dollars from Internet advertising. With this cash cow (until Google's IPO, nobody other than Google management had any idea how lucrative the company's ad business was), Google was able to expand dramatically and take on other transformative projects: more efficient data centers, open-source cell phones, free Internet video (YouTube), cloud computing, digitizing books, and much more.

The key to Google's success in all these businesses, Levy reveals, is its engineering mind-set and adoption of such Internet values as speed, openness, experimentation, and risk taking. After it's unapologetically elitist approach to hiring, Google pampers its engineers with free food and dry cleaning, on-site doctors and masseuses, and gives them all the resources they need to succeed. Even today, with a workforce of more than 23,000, Larry Page signs off on every hire.

But has Google lost its innovative edge? It stumbled badly in China. And now, with its newest initiative, social networking, Google is chasing a successful competitor for the first time. Some employees are leaving the company for smaller, nimbler start-ups. Can the company that famously decided not to be "evil" still compete?

No other book has turned Google inside out as Levy does with In the Plex.

This edition of In the Plex includes an exclusive interview with Google's Marissa Mayer, one of the company's earliest hires and most visible executives, as well as the youngest woman to ever make Fortune's "50 Most Powerful Women in Business" list. She provides a high-level insider's perspective on the company's life story, its unique hiring practices, its new social networking initiative, and more.

©2011 Steven Levy (P)2011 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Thoroughly versed in technology reporting, Wired senior writer Levy deliberates at great length about online behemoth Google and creatively documents the company’s genesis from a 'feisty start-up to a market-dominating giant'.... Though the author offers plenty of well-known information, it’s his catbird-seat vantage point that really gets to the good stuff. Outstanding reportage delivered in the upbeat, informative fashion for which Levy is well known." (Kirkus Reviews)

"The book, a wide-ranging history of the company from start-up to behemoth, sheds light on the biggest threats Google faces today, from the Chinese government to Facebook and privacy critics." (The New York Times)

“With a commanding voice, L.J. Ganser narrates this history and exploration of Google….Ganser’s stern voice is clear and moves through the text with determination.” (AudioFile)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (3122 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Jeff MASON, OH, United States 08-21-11
    Jeff MASON, OH, United States 08-21-11 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    21
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    47
    9
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
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    Performance
    Story
    "Great for the stories."

    More of a "20/20" investigation of Google than anything else. Does assume you have the name familiarity that he does which can get difficult to follow at times.

    20 hours is a long time to explain only a decade, and there is some redundancy.

    The stories, are excellent. Steven obviously had an "all access" path in Google. If you have any questions about this company, or consider them on any level, there is information in this you'll be excited to hear.

    18 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Roger Smith Orlando, Florida United States 07-25-11
    Roger Smith Orlando, Florida United States 07-25-11 Member Since 2000

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    253
    ratings
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    339
    102
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    Story
    "Excellent Current Story"

    If you have listened to the earlier books "Search" and "Google", then you have not heard what this book has to say. It is excellent and covers many more products than just search. It is also extremely current.

    14 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lynn 04-19-11
    Lynn 04-19-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    716
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    161
    144
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    FOLLOWING
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    Overall
    "A Rip Snorting Story"

    Steven Levy has successfully gathered all the details necessary to tell the story of Google - to the present in early 2011. The most interesting sections deal with Google's experience in China, insights into the Google culture in the US and abroad, and how particular decisions were made from the beginning. The growth of Google is here, conflict along the way is presented, and the ethical and technological challenges covered. The only downside of the book - it is too early to know how Google will adjust to being a a "big company." A benefit of the Audible version is the "extra" interview section at the end. The reading of L. J. Ganser is excellent, the writing is engaging, and the book informative.

    40 of 42 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Emily ARLINGTON, VA, United States 05-11-11
    Emily ARLINGTON, VA, United States 05-11-11 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Clever, honest, and even inspiring"

    If you use Gmail, Google Search, Google Analytics, hell, any Google product at all, or you've ever been frustrated by the bureaucratic process, you owe it to yourself to check out this book.

    21 of 22 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew Gilbert, AZ, United States 04-23-11
    Andrew Gilbert, AZ, United States 04-23-11 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    49
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    5
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    3
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    "Just ok for me"

    The book was very well narrated and written. It was just a bit boring.

    For the person not up on tech, the content may be more revelatory but for a blog follower on all things tech it was a bit underwhelming.

    I also think the author was too close to google to give an objective report. More a collation of news that we, for the most part, know.

    Alas, it passed the time during a few commutes. 2.5 stars - bland.

    40 of 43 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gwozdz 09-13-11
    Gwozdz 09-13-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Finally, I get Google"

    This is a must read for anyone who wants to truly understand Google. Their struggle and why they do what they do is so interesting. There's a lot of high level knowledge in this book that I've adopted into my work ethic. Now all I need is a copy of their OKR and apply it to everything!

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Miike 04-19-11
    Miike 04-19-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Google is Everywhere!"

    A fascinating and sometimes scary look into the power and depth of whatever Google is really trying to be. The concept of “cloud computing” where files on our personal computers/phones/whatever …no longer exist….” asks us to place all of our trust in a company that appears to mean well ………. that appears to have our best interests at heart – but when and where have we heard all of that before and what were the outcomes?

    A great – “should/must read” for all of us who use many of Google’s services on a daily basis.

    17 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diane United States 06-04-12
    Diane United States 06-04-12 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    188
    ratings
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    60
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    "A high-quality book, but boring"

    First, a disclaimer. I simply could not get past chapter 8 although I really wanted to. This book was clearly well researched, written, and read. But unlike Walter Isaacson's "Steve Jobs", which I found fascinating and thoroughly entertaining, there was nothing in this book of human interest to make the story come alive. Certainly it's a must read for industry enthusiasts, or any entrepreneurial type for that matter. As I am neither of those, however, it fell flat for me and I am giving up.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A. Yoshida 11-23-13
    A. Yoshida 11-23-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "What would we do without Google?"

    This is great read on the history of Google, it's founders (Larry Page and Sergey Brin), and search technology. In the early days of the internet if you had typed in "newspaper," you would not have gotten "New York Times" or "LA Times" because they didn't have "newspaper" in its title. You had to know exactly what key words would generate the results you wanted. It's amazing to think how far search engines have come -- as you type, they predict what you want and populate key words for you. It is due to Google's extreme focus on technology and goals (speed, measurement, refinement, and openness). And there are many more amazing Google technologies that work seamlessly into our lives, which I have forgotten about -- Google Earth, Google Maps, Google Translate....

    There is a lot of reference to "Googley" people and culture and the company's motto of "don't be evil." I think some readers will find it as a bias towards Google. I think it simply describes a workforce obsessively dedicated to doing what they love. For example, many might argue that Google's entry into China was a major stumble and the book doesn't place much accountability on the executives of Google. I think it was daring that Google did that. Selling technology in China is a high-risk proposition. Corruption and copyright infringements turn many companies away from China. Google had to know failure was very likely. Google took a chance to do something for the people of China. Although they censored results as required by the Chinese government, the users were informed on the page whenever results were censored. It was a small step... but an important step to reflect the value of openness -- the Chinese people were told when they weren't getting everything they wanted to see because the government was censoring it.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matthew Peoria, IL, United States 06-01-11
    Matthew Peoria, IL, United States 06-01-11 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
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    "Levy hit another home run"

    An excellent treatment of the ups and downs for Google. Very interesting information about one of the most secretive companies in the world!

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 153 results PREVIOUS1216NEXT
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  • Rock
    London, United Kingdom
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "Fascinating account"

    Great insights into the amazing ascent of Google from an author who clearly has had some high level access.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Colin
    Shepperton, United Kingdom
    4/7/13
    Overall
    "OK-but don't get too ecited"

    This book is an OK look at Google and the rise of the search engine as it grows from early concept to where it is now and as it looks to enter new markets. However, there is nothing particularly new in the book over what you hear on the media regularly. Amd I have to say, although this may jut be me, I do find the narrators voice and intonation quite irritating!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Joe
    Kilkenny, Ireland
    4/7/13
    Overall
    "Fascinating, super read."

    The last time I read a Steven Levy book was back 2001, the fascinating 'Insanely Great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer that Changed Everything'. Levy takes on a similar subject here, examining the birth and development of Google. I have to say, I thought this was an excellent read, with a thorough and comprehensive story and a clear theme as Levy focuses on the culture which the founders instilled into their organisation. The chapters on the early days were fascinating, and insights into Google's technology eye-opening, and the book left me with a whole new perspective on Google. If you enjoy technology books you'll love this!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • judith
    canary wharf, United Kingdom
    3/18/13
    Overall
    "Thorough job"

    Very complete history of an amazing company. I found the book more worthy than fun.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mark
    Middlesbrough, United Kingdom
    3/11/13
    Overall
    "Great Listen"

    I found this book inspiring; this book is constructed in a way that it keeps you engaged from start to finish. I was disappointed when it ended, even if your not into technology the leadership principles demonstrated are sound.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Adrian
    Norwich, United Kingdom
    2/25/13
    Overall
    "I warmed to the Google empire"

    A fascinating insight into the minds of the Google founders, leaders and employees. The author did come across as a bit of a fanboy, particularly when Microsoft came up and that dented the my enjoyment and his credibility a very small amount.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • David
    Stockholm, Sweden
    5/4/12
    Overall
    "A vision"

    As a software engineer I've used Google since it raced past AltaVista et.al. This book provides a interesting
    It covers history, founders, obstacles, technical achievements - but also philosophy and ideology.
    The best parts are the anecdotes sprinkled through the book.
    Of course it is a bit biased. Focus are on the successful stories. Start and end are almost recruitment advertising...
    I also find a bit to long. As a developer I would love to have more technical details/anecdotes. I had expected more regarding Android - and less regarding self steering cars.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • gordon
    london, United Kingdom
    8/22/11
    Overall
    "good, if long"

    this book went on and on and on, but it was fascinating in parts and really informative. i certainly learned a lot about google and the culture within. given i use google every single day, it was interesting to see how it developed and the trials and tribulations along the way.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • A User
    6/20/11
    Overall
    "Great inspiration"

    This story about Google has been a great inspiration for me. It shows how many cool things are possible in the world of computer science. After a year's break, this book has motivated me to continue with my CS degree. For that, it deserves a 5 star rating.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Phillip Hutton
    6/11/11
    Overall
    "Great Book"

    I really enjoyed this business book. Great insight into how the guys moved from startup to the power house that it has become. The whole China thing was eye opening. You all need to read this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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