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
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.
"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)
It's a long story and sometimes a bit tedious but truly interesting and intriguing. The narrator was sometimes hard to understand and there were many references to names mentioned earlier in the book which were impossible to track per audio vs print version. I may listen to the whole thing again. Just like the Steve Jobs book, it provided a good review of how the technology developed at Google and both clarified and improved my perceptions of their mission and goals.
Average at best
This is the only book I've tried of his, and I wouldn't judge anyone just off of one book. I would give him another try.
It's great to be informed about that most ubiquitous technology that is in sooo much of our mobile/online lives.
I'm not a techie, but it's good to know of Google's philosophy & the founders' thinking as time rolls on.
And 3 cheers for Maria Montessori.
Here in Australia there are just a few Montessori junior high schools.
I believe a Montessori high school experience is sooo good for shaping & rounding young teens, the benefits compared to a regular high school curriculum are immeasurable !
I loved listening to this book. The author takes you on a fun journey of the things that happen behind the scene. The author provides interesting details behind every important step taken by the company.
Fascinating, intriguing, enlightening
The history of how Google began, the transition from being a start-up to the huge corporation they are today
The Chinese struggle, the story of Android
Neither, but it was very intersting
This is an amazing story of how Google initiated and expanded it's work
This gives the power of thinking big.
He is narrating the book with emotions.
I was amazed by the vision behind key players of Google.
If you are interested in Internet and Information technology this book gives a nice insight about search mechanisms.
If you have any interest in google or learn more about Silicon Valley you must listen to this book!
The time line of the company
How the founders of Google took their thesis out to the people
Inspirational, motivating and insightful.
I liked the backstory behind the development of some of the most powerful aspects of Google's business (some intentional some by coincidence).
The development and evolution of the search algorithm.
The only extreme reaction would be the degree to which it inspired me to think differently about how I approach problems in my business.
Well worth the listen for anyone fascinated by Google, technology or business growth and culture.
Yes. It's entertaining, and provides a good insight in the way Google people thinks.
I'm an IT guy, not particularly a lover for Google (or Microsoft or Apple) but it's a very interesting book.
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