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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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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Asit Bangalore, India 04-29-11
    Asit Bangalore, India 04-29-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent Book about Google"

    There are many things about google and its founder which is well described. Good information on how the founder thinks about google. Excellent work by Steven Levy.

    15 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    TM 12-05-13
    TM 12-05-13

    TJM

    HELPFUL VOTES
    68
    ratings
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    "A Reporter Reporting, not a Writer Writing"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    The narrator does the best he can with the material, but it is dry stuff and slow-going.


    Any additional comments?

    Having enjoyed "I'm Feeling Lucky", and assuming it was a single persons perspective on the amazing start-up story, I thought I would try another book about Google. However, this book had no narrative arc. It was just a series of reported events with dry quotes from Google employees. I did my best to stay engaged, but about half way through the second part I found other books to listen to.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    DS 02-04-13
    DS 02-04-13 Member Since 2012

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    ratings
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    "GREAT CORPORATE BIO"

    This is a great biography of a corporation and an important addition to the history of the internet. For those who remember DOS and a super clunky internet, the notion that Microsoft is considered evil and Google was a white knight in the early days, won't be news but for those who came later, this is interesting information to know.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mr Melbourne, Australia 12-28-11
    Mr Melbourne, Australia 12-28-11
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    "Thought Provoking and Intersting"
    What did you love best about In the Plex?

    There wasn't one single thing that you could love best about


    What did you like best about this story?

    The best part about this story is having experienced and remembered some of the public events and seeing the story from a new point of view (ie. Google's) and going


    Which character – as performed by L. J. Ganser – was your favorite?

    I can't say that a single character performed by L. J. Ganser was my favourite, as there were many colurful and inspiring figures in the book which I believe the reader captures quite well. When listening to the audiobook, sometimes you can actually feel like you're standing in the room and observing the figureheads go toe to toe with their arguments.


    Any additional comments?

    Overall this is a great book and I would strongly recommend it to anyone who's interested in the internet and the way Google works and performs as it's an excellent insight into the way Google has evolved since the beginning. I am a little disappointed that they didn't go into detail of how, say YouTube functioned, but it is interesting listening to the fan fare around the other products like Wave, or other things that have come out of the Google Labs.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael N. Bergelson Bronx, NY United States 07-12-11
    Michael N. Bergelson Bronx, NY United States 07-12-11 Member Since 2004

    visitdocs.com

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Creation of the Information Future Giant"

    The book is a history of Google creation, Google policies and Google functioning. It reads like a novel and a fiction. But I know that everything is real in Google: ideas, accomplishments and management skills. The process of company management is the most exciting part of the whole story. It is not a surprise that Google as a tool became a part of most people life that are using computers, cell phone and look for most of information on web. It is a Must read for information technologists. I loved it...

    Michael Bergelson

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linus Västerås, Sweden 12-16-11
    Linus Västerås, Sweden 12-16-11
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    "The perfect book!"
    Where does In the Plex rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    I actually think that this is the best audiobook that I have ever listened to.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes!


    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Glenn Richmond Hill, ON, Canada 11-13-14
    Glenn Richmond Hill, ON, Canada 11-13-14 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Audio delivers on its pubishers summary"

    Excellent audio that held my attention the whole way through. I liked that it was not a puff piece and got a true look from a business perspective at where Google started and what they have succeeded and failed at.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ryan SOUTH MORANG, Australia 09-13-13
    Ryan SOUTH MORANG, Australia 09-13-13 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Became a chore Very Soon On"
    What disappointed you about In the Plex?

    It was very Name and Date heavy... It got in the way of the story... All I heard was a blur of names of people who worked there or attended certain events...


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Boredom


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nancy Waterloo, ON, Canada 07-13-13
    Nancy Waterloo, ON, Canada 07-13-13 Member Since 2010

    I love learning, teaching, and exploring!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Google lover"

    I love Google and Google products so this book enjoyable listening for me. It was informative to learn about the ideas and people behind the products that I love to use, but also interesting to learn more about some of the controversial practices used by Google. Everything from hiring practices, to the concept of page rank, and the China decision was covered. It might come across as a little bit pro-Google to those who are not Google fans, but I didn't mind.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nate the Great 02-25-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fluff piece"
    What was most disappointing about Steven Levy’s story?

    He skims over the scary parts of Google and does his best to be their defender. One does not have to know much about the missteps to notice that you are only getting a surface story from a man enamored with his subject. Now I feel obligated to read a book that makes an effort to tell me the other side.


    Do you think In the Plex needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    YES! By an investigative reporter. We all know that two brainy students changed the world with their search product. We understand that they have done a spectacular job building a company. We also know they do not care at all about privacy or personal data.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 11-20 of 152 results PREVIOUS12316NEXT
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  • Alastair
    Shrewsbury, United Kingdom
    3/10/12
    Overall
    "A surprisingly inspirational book"

    A really excellent and engaging book. I used Google before without much thought but since the book I can see where the company has made significant differences in the internet and the general information in the world - I mean more than Google search. The insights into how it 'thinks', whats required to do that, and how our data is used is amazing.
    The ethos of the early companies aim to make products to improve the world (free)/make available info I believe comes through their actions strongly and as far as big companies go I believe they are far from 'evil'. Excellent narration for an engaging story.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Monsieur
    9/21/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "very interesting!"
    Would you listen to In the Plex again? Why?

    no, I think it's a one shot listen, but definitely worth it the one time!


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    larry page


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    no, but a joy to listen to in bursts over a week or so


    Any additional comments?

    really insightful, a great listen for anyone into technology / computer science.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Andrew Ward
    7/7/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Insight to the intrusion"
    What did you like most about In the Plex?

    Explaining where and why google came to be was informative and understanding why they wanted to do what they do was eye opening


    What was one of the most memorable moments of In the Plex?

    That they didn't want to be a company they just wanted to work on search and stay at Stanford


    If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Insights into the sharing of your privacy


    Any additional comments?

    anyone who thinks Google is just a big brother company should listen to this to see the reason why they want all that data and how they want to use it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Adam Evans
    Birmingham, UK
    6/30/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Google is god..So much more than a search engine"
    Where does In the Plex rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Definitely among the top ten. If you didn't think small ideas could chance the world, this book will get you thinking big and dreaming.

    For someone like me who practically lives on the web and loves technology this is a rare chance to understand how it all works. Google have changed the way we do everything for the better, and most people don't even realise it. What's better they manage to make every one of their innovations either free or very very low cost. Making their innovations accessible to every person from every background. They truly make the world a better place.


    What other book might you compare In the Plex to, and why?

    It's very hard to compare it anything. There is only one google. I guess the only thing even remotely near to it would be The story of Facebook. Nothing else in the past 50 years has come close to changing our everyday life as much as google.


    Have you listened to any of L. J. Ganser’s other performances? How does this one compare?

    I haven't had the pleasure before but he read it well. Good pace tone and audio quality.


    If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Oops I started a revolution!


    Any additional comments?

    Google can't be avoided. It's got a finger in everything around us. If you want to understand where the world is going and how we got to where we are or even just want to understand how to market yourself and your business better, there are some amazing insights in here.

    Be warned though it's no short read and sometimes it's quite techie. Definitely worth knowing. I used to like google but this book has turned me into a power user and lifelong fan - I now live and work in the cloud, it's improved and changed the way I do most things from day to day.

    NOTE: I listened to this book on my android phone, typed this review on my chromebook while streaming video to my TV via my chromecast dongle. I also run a small business and all of our documents and systems are kept in the cloud using google apps.

    Join the google revolution ;)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Jameski
    UK
    12/5/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "An excellent insight into the Google phenomenon."
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    An excellent audio listen outlining the background and evolution of Google and its creators. The detail and experiences in the way that the book has been written by Steven Levy is superb, gaining exceptional access to Larry and Sergei as well as other key influential people with Google allows Levy to tell a factual and very interesting story that keeps you interested throughout. One of the best audio books I've listened to !!


    What did you like best about this story?

    The detailed factual content and the way its written giving background from inception to almost current day


    Which character – as performed by L. J. Ganser – was your favourite?

    no real character, just very well narrated


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Peter
    EDINBURGH, United Kingdom
    12/2/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Brilliant insight"

    Superb book, great insights into early as well as later Google. I couldn't imagine that there will be so much material to cover 20 hours worth of a book, but I have to say that there wasn't a section which I didn't find interesting. Very well researched and performed well as well.

    One small note is I have no idea what was going on with chapter numbers - was saying 'chapter 3' half the time, with 'chapter 2 or 4' mixed in randomly.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • James
    Woking, United Kingdom
    9/19/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Explains Google well"
    What made the experience of listening to In the Plex the most enjoyable?

    The content is very rich, all aspects of Google appear to be dealt with in logical ways, so that following the timelines and individual issues is not a problem.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The founders are really the main "characters" all the way through, and the book gives some insight into their personalities without a huge amount of access to them directly, just their company.


    If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    The birth of a giant


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • P
    Aberdeen, United Kingdom
    8/2/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A little boring"

    The first half of the book is interesting and kept me interested but the sections on china, google books were just lenghtly and boring with too much pointless detail.
    It does a good job on explaining how google was developped and how is essentially works. I would recommend this book to someone who really loves google products or wants to create a IT start-up.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • J. Freeman
    HULL, United Kingdom
    6/24/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Interesting in parts"

    One of those books that I am not enjoying enough to get excited about but not hating enough to delete. It's interesting in part but not enough to make up for the dullness of the subject.

    The narrator is also very cheesy.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • chris
    Epsom, United Kingdom
    6/8/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Somehow left me flat ;-("

    Having been an avid fan of audio books and captivated recently by the Steve Jobs biography. This review of Google seem somewhat 'clinical'. It was fine, historically interesting, giving insight but ultimately it just seemed a serious of facts strung together in a less than captivating way which did not draw you in or make you really care what happended (even though we all know how well Google has done).

    I listened to it all but by halfway through the first half I was wishing it over but continued to the end.

    Not the strongest book I have heard by far and don't expect a light story, but if you want to know about google then the author had access to the heart of the business.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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