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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

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  •  
    Mim HUGHENDEN, Australia 10-01-11
    Mim HUGHENDEN, Australia 10-01-11 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fascinating insight"

    Google is 13 years old and this book gave me so much insight into the phenomenon. I find myself looking at the Google site with much more appreciation than before. Took me a while to get used to the figures and statistics and so on, but once I had that sorted I found this book fascintaitng.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mr. Jared C. Serra st. louis, MO USA 09-25-11
    Mr. Jared C. Serra st. louis, MO USA 09-25-11 Member Since 2010

    Fathers Face Remembered

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    "Non Fiction that absorbs."

    This one will delight, entertain, uplift, and move you. You need to listen to this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jack englewood, CO, United States 09-11-11
    jack englewood, CO, United States 09-11-11 Member Since 2010
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    "Read this book"

    I loved this book. It is beyond relavent, it is the future and explains the world of search, maps and so much more that we take for granted. I was amazed and thought I knew something about the internet.

    Fantastic research by Steven Levy and great narration by L.J. Ganser. Could not stop listening until done.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    O'Brien Singleton, Australia 09-07-11
    O'Brien Singleton, Australia 09-07-11 Member Since 2011
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    "Narration not up to standard"

    Sounds like they dragged someone out pf the 50's to narrate this one. Really took away from the experience. Maybe better to try the print edition IMO.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tim United States 09-07-11
    Tim United States 09-07-11 Member Since 2010

    I use my left foot to type my reviews.

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    "Tweaking the wheel"

    In the Ples (Google) book is not a thrilling book, like a novel, but more like a information book about Google. The first half of the book is pretty dull. How Google got started, the founders, etc. It made me want to go to sleep for the first 5-6 hours because there has been so much coverage on this already, that the book is more like a re run of the same story. It doesn't gets interesting until after the background noise.

    The book does a good job at going over each products that Google has to offer and how they manifested in what they have now like, Google 411 for voice recognition, maps, gmail and so on. The most interesting parts in the book is Google's relation to China and how they kept their principles. Also, the infrastructure on their server farms, how server farms works and redundant backups by using sub par disk drives and other cut backs, but because of their engineering and programming, cutting corners actually made the server farms run more efficiently from others. .

    I've also read "What would Google do" by Jeff Jarvis and other books on this topic, but they are all commentaries and personal opinions.

    Almost 20 hours for "In The Plex" is justify because of its content and level of detail and explanation and the hard facts.

    I hope the author will write another issue of this book in 10 years on what else Google achieve and fail to do.

    Google is just tweaking the wheel to roll faster.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    E. F. Battreall II DENVER, CO, United States 08-18-11
    E. F. Battreall II DENVER, CO, United States 08-18-11 Member Since 2010

    Ed

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    "In The Plex"

    An excellent portrait of our modern business world. The internet has opened the door and given opportunities to the young and intelligent ambitions of this world.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark T Ryan 08-14-11
    Mark T Ryan 08-14-11 Member Since 2009
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    "A misunderstood giant"

    An entertaining rendition, written in almost a collegiate style their was a little too much of "were the misunderstood good guys".

    Google is the third half of the many peoples minds and its efficacy and ease is almost like an opium. It posses the questions of responsibility in the competitive arena but does not paint the picture of the continuing social shift.

    All the same very entertaining

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wesley CARLSBAD, CA, United States 07-31-11
    Wesley CARLSBAD, CA, United States 07-31-11 Member Since 2010

    the Zepto

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    "Interesting listening"

    The author seemed really have deep knowledge about Google. But I can clearly see his bias on Google - he really likes Google. The narrator was perfect, he surely sounded interested in what the book is about and passionate. As far as you don't take it word for word from the author, this book is an excellent book to know better about what Google is and where it is going.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Steve West New York, NJ, United States 07-29-11
    Steve West New York, NJ, United States 07-29-11 Member Since 2011
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    "Fantastic - I enjoyed this book immensely."

    This book was a very thorough look into all of Google's products from a social, historical and technological perspective. I'm a big user of Google products, and I learned a lot from this book that helped me understand Google's purpose and trajectory even better than before. I love Steven Levy's writing, and would recommend this book to anyone interested in the behemoth that is Google. My only caveat would be that if you're not a technically oriented person, that some of the material might be over your head.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Randy Minneapolis, MN, United States 07-26-11
    Randy Minneapolis, MN, United States 07-26-11 Member Since 2005
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    "Informative, Engaging, and Provocative"

    Maybe it's because I have a background in technology, and lived in Silicon Valley for many years that I enjoyed the book as much as I did, but as a current small business owner in a non technology field, I found the marketing, human resource, and sociological elements of the text even more interesting. As a brief technology history lesson for computer scientists, this book is must-read material for students interested in making a difference in the world, creating the next big thing in science, or working for Google. Teachers, legislators, and parents becoming complacent about the US education system should find the book motivating and instructive. I doubt that Levy intended to weave the good vs. evil subplot in the book, but in the end you might wonder if Google became Google because it's culture dictated that it not be evil. Or was it because it had brilliant scientists who worked their tails off who will face and be tempted by evil again and again and eventually become (quintessential corporate slut) Microsoft anyway? Was the decision to pull government censored Search out of China the ultimate litmus test for Google's values? And if so, does that suggest that the world really should trust a private company that large with a digitized library of all of the books ever written? Or the next big thing from the Mountain View giant?

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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