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)
Yes - if you like tech, how companies are built and like the values of Google, you will love this book
The China decisions based on the debate as to which was the greater evil
Yes but it is very long - did it over a few days
This was a very thorough description of how Google started and grew with fairly in depth details of the various important areas of Google and its milestones.The author had seemingly unfettered access to many Googlers and went on trips around the world with them.
This is a great read or listen if you are interested in Google or hi tech. I highly recommend it.
This book not only tells the story of Google the writing seems to capture and convey the mood and sentiment of those portrayed as well. I liked the reading as well and felt entertained as well as educated. I learned a lot about the high tech world that I was unaware of, as well as quite a bit about Google, Apple, and corporate culture. A good book all in all and I have already recommended it to friends.
I got this book because it was mentioned on TWiT by one of the people participating in the show. Its a great background story of what really took to get Google going. It also goes in depth as to how other companies finally realized the threat they've become and what they did to get rid of them. This book explains how Google came up with all their products ideas and an in-depth look at how some of them got them in trouble. Unlike Facebook Google can't make changes without everyone saying 'Your being Evil' and violating 'Don't be Evil' the companies motto. Facebook can suddenly make all their people's private data public and says, 'We're sorry.' Then change it back. Google faces 'News media' for months and lawyers because it could be a violation of 'Users Rights'. I found this book great for the background story and a rare look behind the scenes and why they keep, so much information secret.
I heard great reviews about this book - but I was overly impressed with the storytelling as well as the research behind this extensive telling of insight into one of the greatest companies of our time.
Fascinating narration of how a tiny startup has become the giant who controls all the content on the internet. A gigantic data gathering monster who by now, knows more about you than your wife.
The author has tried to make Google the hero and paint all other corporations as evil. The character assignation of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates etc. was unnecessary and hints the fact that the author is either biased or was tasked with throwing dirt on the other Silicon Valley entrepreneurs while glorifying Page and Brin.
The part where the author downplays Google’s war driving expedition during the Google street view project as just ‘an act of a rouge engineer’ is interesting. Earlier in the book the author describes the practice of peer-review of the code written by every engineer but doesn’t explain how this data capture code could have gone unnoticed. He also doesn’t make an effort to explain how the Google engineers didn’t notice the huge amount of disk space being consumed from by the street view data collection. They would have done a storage sizing for the Street View project. If the space for the wireless grabs for 3 years was not considered, won’t they have run out of space in few months!!!
The project was slurping personal data from private Wi-Fi networks for three years before it was identified. More than 12 countries ordered investigations against Google.
If the bias and an attempt to glorify Google are ignored, the book is an interesting read, especially to the technically inclined. A motivating saga of how innovation and aspirations of few engineers has created a corporation which has changed the way we work, think and live.
The author apparently had access to many people inside Google including several in top management.
It is interesting to hear how they think and function and the personalities and objectives of the two founders.
It is unfortunate that some of our public institutions are not so rational and data driven.
The objective of the founders appears to be to alter the world and this they have done, but they are clearly not finished. Read the book to discover some of the projects that they pursue principally for the benefits to society which may never benefit their company.
If you are a geek it is a 'must read'. If you are an investor you should read the book to understand what drives the company in which you have invested your money.
It is perhaps the best -non technical - book on current technology.
I enjoy technology and learning about how innovations made it from concept to full integration. For the longest time Google did a great job hiding their internal workings. Now it's possible to catch up on all that happened behind the curtain. This book not only tells the story of each of the key Google people, but also tells the story of how their ideas were implemented. It goes into great depth about Google's corporate culture and how it fostered so many changes in the IT industry.
If you're looking for a book on Google or even just to learn more about how the internet has developed, you can't go wrong with this book.
A must read if you want to understand how Google works, the value of data on the web, and the current state of business on the internet.
I was surprised at how interesting the story of Google was. It made me ponder some of the underlying factors that made Larry & Sergei succeed, such as their Montessori education. The approach to data mining is fascinating for most anyone interested in improving their business. I was familiar with Schmidt from his Novell days and so it was good to see where he fit in.
Understanding some of the Google functionality and excellence that I had taken for granted. Getting a feel for the Google 'culture' was helpful for me too.
Reading about the Google experience in China.
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