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)
The narrator does the best he can with the material, but it is dry stuff and slow-going.
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.
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...
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.
This is great read on the history of Google, it's founders (Larry Page and Sergey Brin), and search technology. In the early days of the internet if you had typed in "newspaper," you would not have gotten "New York Times" or "LA Times" because they didn't have "newspaper" in its title. You had to know exactly what key words would generate the results you wanted. It's amazing to think how far search engines have come -- as you type, they predict what you want and populate key words for you. It is due to Google's extreme focus on technology and goals (speed, measurement, refinement, and openness). And there are many more amazing Google technologies that work seamlessly into our lives, which I have forgotten about -- Google Earth, Google Maps, Google Translate....
There is a lot of reference to "Googley" people and culture and the company's motto of "don't be evil." I think some readers will find it as a bias towards Google. I think it simply describes a workforce obsessively dedicated to doing what they love. For example, many might argue that Google's entry into China was a major stumble and the book doesn't place much accountability on the executives of Google. I think it was daring that Google did that. Selling technology in China is a high-risk proposition. Corruption and copyright infringements turn many companies away from China. Google had to know failure was very likely. Google took a chance to do something for the people of China. Although they censored results as required by the Chinese government, the users were informed on the page whenever results were censored. It was a small step... but an important step to reflect the value of openness -- the Chinese people were told when they weren't getting everything they wanted to see because the government was censoring it.
The story and background are great. I really enjoy learning how "startups" like this are conceived and how they grow to be the global forces they are today. However, the author does not appear to have any distance between himself and the story. He is clearly enamored with the founders and spends countless pages telling us how "amazing" these guys are. I prefer the "Steve Jobs" book approach. In that book, the author sang the praises when due but also exposed the warts, pimples and just plain ugliness of the man/story. In the Plex makes you believe that these two had some grand plan and that each step was preplanned for maximum success. Reality is, they fell ass-backwards into a gold mine. Good for them ... but tell the story from some source other than the ego-driven Serge and Page.
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.
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.
There wasn't one single thing that you could love best about
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
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.
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.
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...
I actually think that this is the best audiobook that I have ever listened to.
I enjoyed this audio book. My only gripes with it is that the reading is a tad slow, but 1.25x fixes that with little pitch issues.
As for the book itself, it offers a very good insight at the internals of Google as a company, it's culture and projects. However, it often feels propagandistic, and the whole book is biased towards making Google seem like the perfect place to work. I feel like the book would have been better if the author had kept an objective point of view, presenting the facts and stories without trying to justify Google's actions and motives.
"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.
"Learnt alot about this great company"
Learnt how to run a great company
Its was written 2011 and things haved moved on
but it is such a treat
Google is certainly a major force in our lives today. This book really gives a good incite into what makes Google tick.
"Interesting and enjoyable"
A great insight into the origin and growth of Google - one of the most important companies in the world, and one that a plurality of people on the planet interact with on an almost daily basis.
The early years are interesting, but as the company grows, and the range of areas into which it expands grows, the insight into the underlying artificial intelligence behind everything from translation to recognition is fascinating.... the tone changes from one of Google as a company to one of Google as an entity.
Great, just like all of his other readings - one of the best narrators on Audible.
"Good detailed but biased opinion"
Good detail about how adwords works and was developed.
The author is obviously a Google fanboy and barely criticises the company. The bonus interview is a nice touch but again it follows the format of 'Google is great, tell me the greatest thing about them etc. etc.'
"Amazing history of Google, highly engaging"
I've found that this book reads like a novel. Almost every chapter at something unbelievably interesting about the founders the philosophy of the company et cetera. I highly recommended business book.
no, I think it's a one shot listen, but definitely worth it the one time!
no, but a joy to listen to in bursts over a week or so
really insightful, a great listen for anyone into technology / computer science.
"Insight to the intrusion"
Explaining where and why google came to be was informative and understanding why they wanted to do what they do was eye opening
That they didn't want to be a company they just wanted to work on search and stay at Stanford
Insights into the sharing of your privacy
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.
"Google is god..So much more than a search engine"
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.
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.
I haven't had the pleasure before but he read it well. Good pace tone and audio quality.
Oops I started a revolution!
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 ;)
"An excellent insight into the Google phenomenon."
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 !!
The detailed factual content and the way its written giving background from inception to almost current day
no real character, just very well narrated
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