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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

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  •  
    Mark T Ryan Sydney 08-14-11
    Mark T Ryan Sydney 08-14-11 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    12
    3
    Overall
    "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
  •  
    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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    23
    1
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    Story
    "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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    1
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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
  •  
    Amazon Customer PHOENIX, AZ, United States 07-20-11
    Amazon Customer PHOENIX, AZ, United States 07-20-11 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting content and great narration!"

    Some audio books bore me to death, but this guy has an enthusiastic voice and inflection that made the content more exciting.

    I listened to this book for the last few weeks during my lunch hour, and it couldn't wait to finish each chapter. I've been a user of Google for a long time, but now I see the company in a completely different light. I guess you could say that I'm a "fan" now!

    I'm not sure how the typical consumer would react to this book, but from an I.T. professional's perspective -- it was digital candy for my mind. I only wish the book wouldn't have ended, and continued on as a real time blog so I that could keep up on current events at Google, as they unfold.

    It was truly an enjoyable story about the rise of a great, modern company that's still growing and changing the way people interact online.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Louis Pretoria, South Africa 07-13-11
    Louis Pretoria, South Africa 07-13-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good Listen!"

    I really enjoyed this audio book. As a Web Designer I am somehow involved with Google every day with search engines, page ranking etc. This book is a good summary of all Google products, where they originated, how they work and the advantages / disadvantages. Really a book I would recommend!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Zbigniew Warsaw, Poland 07-12-11
    Zbigniew Warsaw, Poland 07-12-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    15
    3
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    "Like google or not but must read this book"

    One of the top book I ever read/listen. Very broad story about the company, employee and their products. It's describe not only new generation of products but new generation of companies and management.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    syna 05-02-11
    syna 05-02-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
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    7
    1
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    "didn't like the narrator..."

    well, overall listening to him was pretty much not interesting way to read this kind of stories.
    apart from "data" pronounciation, i kept thinking i didn't like the way he reading it... or maybe just the voice...

    7 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pauly Morefuss 03-02-13
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    "20 Hour Infomercial?"

    Smart. They're all super smart. Big. Google is big. It's very big. Everyone at Google is smart. It's very smart. Big and smart.

    Did I mention they're all smart? Yes, it's smart. And it's really big.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ralph Fairfield, NJ, United States 07-09-11
    Ralph Fairfield, NJ, United States 07-09-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    "Snooze Fest"

    Very biased opinion of Google. They only made the correct moves 99% of the time. Felt like a child wrote this book. Example: We expected sales numbers to be 1000. They said it was a 100,000. He almost fell out of his chair. Really. Come on. Levy has his head up Google's *** he should have not wrote this. I hope the future Steve Jobs book is not like this.

    2 of 7 people found this review helpful
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