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)
Great reader and compelling story that has increased my admiration and respect for the Google founders. It does get a bit technical which made me love it but may be a bit much for some so that's why I gave it 4 instead of a perfect 5 stars.
Nice flow and new information was presented well
The early years at Stanford
Very well done
I think this book does a great job teaching us about how Google thinks as a company and how its founders see the purpose and direction of the company. I also think the book is a very honest look into Google, it exposes many of the rough spots the company has experienced in more detail than many of us know.
I do not like the way the book was written, it does not follow a single timeline but instead chooses to devote each chapter to a different topic and restarting the timeline at the beginning of the topic covered. And because the topics do not begin an end within the same time period I felt confused about when things were happening in relation to each other throughout most of the book.
On the other hand, Steven Levy is an amazing writer with a great voice, each chapter can stand on its own and maybe should have.
The World According to JimG944
I rate 5 of 5 stars to the Audible audio book "Into the Plex" by Steven Levy. The book is a historical look at Google. Levy spent a considerable amount of time on the inside of Google gathering history, legend, lore and tales from the start of Google to the completion of the book. I work in the Silicon Valley and have been keenly aware of Google, but, like most, I'd hear news stories that sounded pretty odd (hence making the news) and not really having a big picture of what they were doing. The news casts give us a few "trees", this book provided the "forest" context for the news-worthy events. This story filled alot of voids in my knowledge of Google. If you are into technology, this book is recommended and very interesting!
I always wondered why everyone thinks Google is such a great company. This book really opened my eyes! What I thought was going to be a dry, boring lecture-type book turned out to be a witty, insightful, and colorful history of two kooky techies and their driving desire to be the best at everything. I enjoyed listening in on the inception and growth of a great company.
The biggest problem I have with the book is that is does not feel like a book. If there is a central theme or thesis... I fail to detect it. Instead, it feels very much like a collection of magazine articles that got put together into a so call book.
To be sure, some of the articles are interesting, but it just feels like a jumble of 'stuff'. And the switch of timeline is just confusing: he will follow a topic into 2010 and then switch topic and we are back at the founding days again.
In the end, if you are not familiar with the tech world, then this may be an interesting read (to a certain extend). But at 20 hours, it just does not have a strong back-story that can capture you attention for that amount of time.
And when I finally finish, I was left wondering is that all? Where is the story?
The narrative it uses to explain step by step where Google comes from, it's vision of helping the world, the paradigm shift it's business model established in the IT market (applying the principles of the Long Tale), it's struggle in the social network arena vs Facebook and book digitalizing with Amazon.
In certain point, when I realized they were becoming the Big Brother of the World, disguised with sheepskin
Missionary NOT mercenary, it is for you to decide
Yes - Anyone who loves Google stuff and technology will love this book.
Great book. Must read if you enjoyed Steve Jobs book and alike. If your into tech and the history of tech, you will love this.
Would take out illogical comments and nonsense about Obamacare. (see additional comments below).
Larry and Sergey.
Easy on the ears.
Those who want to know about Google. (see additional comments below).
I just finished
An insightful and interesting story behind Google. I listened to In the Plex back to back with the Steve Jobs biography, and In the Plex came a distant second. The story is often very dry and lacking in personality, too much of a time-line of events and missing the narrative to hold it all together. Full of facts and figures, and hopefully accurate.
This is a good listen if you’re interested in Google and Silicon Valley in general. A good accompaniment to Jobs autobiography I think.
The narrator took a bit to get used to but in the end I found it easy to listen to him.
"Lots of lessons for young entrepreneurs"
I loved this book. It showed how seemingly small decisions made when starting up a company can shape its whole culture and direction. And how this is challenged when they try to become a 'big' company. Well researched, and excellent narration. Recommended.
"Information giant that changed the world"
I can't praise this book enough. I am not knowledgable with technology but use a mobile and laptop nd regularly use google. I found this book very informative and easy to understand. The language used makes it accessible to the non techy reader or listener, but is not so simplistic as to be ptronising. This book takes the listener through the history of google from ist formation to the present and gives some background to the founders which I felt helped me to understand the concept behind the company. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand more about the digital age we have come into, whether you are an older person with little understanding of technology but an interest in it, or whether you are a younger person who may use technology without realising that you are doing so. I particularly recommend this book to young people thinking of some sort of technology based university course or career. For me this book has unlocked some of the mysteries of how and why some of the technologys are packaged as they are, although perhaps thats because I was particularly ignorant before listening to this audio book? If so I am sure I am not the only one who suffers from that chronic condition that is ignorance. Thanks to google I am making a steady recovery. I enjoyed this book as an audio book and the narator read at a comfortable pace with a pleasant clear accent that is easy on the ear, even if the ear in question is UK rather than US. This is the sort of book that makes "Audible" worth while, because lthough the book is fairly long, and long winded at times, it is very easy to listen to and take in whilst doing chores or driving. Get this book, you can't go wrong, its really good.
An interesting and intriguing read. Good for anyone want to know more about some inner scene about the company.
"Super Read, Very Insightful"
this is a superb insight into the goings on of Google and how the worlds biggest search engine works. Its so insightful all webby type people should have a read or listen.
"Interesting facts about how Google operate"
This is a fascinating book about why Google is a good place for employees to work. As someone who isn't in the tech scene the book came as a bit of an eye opener. As a geek Disneyland, the staff work in an environment that allows them to innovate and create at a relentless pace. The audio also covers Google projects in other countries such as India. If you are a recruiter this is a book packed with insight and if you want to get a job with Google this is a good place to start. An enjoyable listen if you are active online and use search engines and would like to see the personalities behind them.
"Brilliant listen for any Google user"
Great listen for anyone who has ever used a Google product. It's amazing to see how Google grew so quickly with such a great basic idea.
"Great Story, Great Narration!"
One of the best narrators I've heard. I enjoyed listening to Google's story and how the system works. I've had my earphones on for many many hours listening to this. Finished it in 3 days, I was definitely sad when it was done, I wish it was longer.
"Great listen for any Google fan"
Well researched and well structured book. Even if you know a lot about Google there are some great insights here. recommended
Finally, the inside track to a story you already know! We've all observed the little changes to google search, and big product launches like gmail and android, but if you're like me, you didn't know the how's or the why's. Engrossing and empowering, Steven Levy did a great job with the material and I feel some of the "googleyness" he mentions rubbed off him, and now it's rubbed off on me too. Big picture, innovation, revolution, evolution... I guess this is the first book ive read that you might class as a business book, but it's more of a tale, maybe even an allegory, for making the impossible possible, using smarts to change the world, doing things better than the traditional way, and more. Loved it.
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