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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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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
    67
    ratings
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    49
    39
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    FOLLOWING
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    Performance
    Story
    "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
    87
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    481
    131
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    FOLLOWING
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    5
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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
    28
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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
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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
  •  
    Ryan SOUTH MORANG, Australia 09-13-13
    Ryan SOUTH MORANG, Australia 09-13-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    3
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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
    145
    ratings
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    84
    33
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    19
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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
  •  
    stpal001 10-21-12
    stpal001 10-21-12 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    44
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    23
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    "Worth more than you think"

    I started this book only mildly interested and ended with an example of how to build a new world. I could have used a lot more detail on the technical aspects of this story: page rank, server clusters, etc.; and less of the internal politics and business models. But the message which was repeated throughout this story was "change the world for the better and let the algorithms do the heavy lifting". It is almost curious that such a bunch of technonerds could make such a profound humanitarian statement, but that is Steven Levy's genius for detail as much as anything purposely done of the principals in this story. Ganser did a superb narration job. If we are lucky this will be the first volume with another installment in 20 or so years. Spolier Alert: Paleonerds will really enjoy this tale. For all others, proceed with caution.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 11-20 of 148 results PREVIOUS12315NEXT
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  • Mrs
    Wirral, United Kingdom
    3/5/12
    Overall
    "Great listen"

    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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Carrie
    Tideswell, UK
    3/31/13
    Overall
    "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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Erika
    Redhill, United Kingdom
    1/25/13
    Overall
    "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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • leeyue
    United Kingdom
    12/24/12
    Overall
    "Lee"

    An interesting and intriguing read. Good for anyone want to know more about some inner scene about the company.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Andrew
    Broadbottom, United Kingdom
    12/23/12
    Overall
    "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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Kevin
    stanford le hope, United Kingdom
    12/23/12
    Overall
    "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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • G
    warrington, United Kingdom
    2/23/12
    Overall
    "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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Gene
    Chicago, IL, United States
    7/31/11
    Overall
    "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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Howard
    London, United Kingdom
    6/5/11
    Overall
    "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

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • George
    Harrogate, United Kingdom
    5/26/11
    Overall
    "Remarkable"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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