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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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  •  
    Kevin United States 10-11-12
    Kevin United States 10-11-12 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    16
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    "The Definitive Book on Google"

    This book is way better than "What Would Google Do". I particularly like the sections that talked about Google's data centers: the machines they use, the cooling systems, the locations, etc. Techies and non-techies will get enjoyment out of this book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 05-27-12
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 05-27-12

    Letting the rest of the world go by

    HELPFUL VOTES
    801
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    197
    174
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    FOLLOWING
    130
    2
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    "Everything I knew about Google was wrong"

    Everything I thought I knew about Google was wrong. I have a whole new understanding and, yes, an appreciation for the success of Google. Google was much more than just a good search engine. They knew how to take that product and leverage it to make money. The author really lets you feel like your inside the company and understand how they succeeded. A very fun and eye opening read.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gretel Jackson, MS, United States 03-19-12
    Gretel Jackson, MS, United States 03-19-12 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    6
    2
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Story
    "Google Puff Piece"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    This is not all an objective treatment. However, even with the author's reverence for the


    Would you recommend In the Plex to your friends? Why or why not?

    Yes and no: it's competent but nearly hagiographic. VERY few opposing viewpoints. I would bet that Google traded access for guaranteed favorable treatment.


    What about L. J. Ganser’s performance did you like?

    Outstanding narration.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    The author would have been well-served to leave out the Obama-centric chapters near the end of the book. They add very little and sound too much like mainstream Obama puffery: according to Levy, the President's main problem is just being too darn rational.... Yeah, right.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dean Charlottesville, VA, United States 11-05-11
    Dean Charlottesville, VA, United States 11-05-11

    KoolMoeDean

    HELPFUL VOTES
    41
    ratings
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    19
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    "One of the better business biography-type books"

    This was more interesting than some other examples in this genre (Hsieh's book about Zappos or Employee 59 for example) probably because it was written by an outsider with access to the company, not a founder, former employee or someone with a direct stake in the company. It's interesting to see the development of the algorithm, the inside look at the corporate culture and other aspects of the company that is such a big part of all our lives, whether we like it or not.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. Adams 10-21-11
    J. Adams 10-21-11 Member Since 2009

    MrBizzleTex

    HELPFUL VOTES
    16
    ratings
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    49
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    "Authoritative Read of THE Google Book"

    Mr. Levy wrote THE definitive book about google and his insights are fascinating. It is also clear that he was given access to individuals and documents that had previously not been available to other authors. The resulting story is a balanced book not just a love note to Google.

    The Narration by Mr. Ganser is pitch perfect! He is authoritative and clear. Even when the book drags just a bit Mr. Ganser's narration keeps you involved and listening.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amr 09-18-11
    Amr 09-18-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
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    14
    14
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    "I thought this would be a fanboy book"

    I thought this would be a fan-boy book.
    There's a big part of this book that is just about telling the story of Google. How it started, how it has grown to be the Internet giant that it is now.
    But it's the Google story told by a journalist with a long relationship with Google. This doesn't affect his integrity but I think it makes him sees the world as Google sees it. Judge Google by their intentions rather than their actions. He's like one of those "embed" journalists that travel with the U.S. forces in Iraq. After a while, he starts to be one of them. This issue confirms my guess that this is a fan-boy book.

    But as I read on, the author raises questions about Google losing its soul (my words not his), and how it was transformed from an Internet startup to a giant corporation, and how all this affect Google. He's not a fan-boy, he's a fan of Google for sure but the way it was not necessarily the way it is or would be.

    The story is told in terms of topics and products. Starting with important products to less important topics and failed products. This causes some jumps in the time line forward and backward which could be frustrating. At least I felt that sometimes it lacks connecting all those stories together.

    There's a focus in the book on technical details. They're explained in plain English in a way simple enough for a reader to understand but are also very intriguing for a developer or a person with technical background.

    There are two stories in the book that I was impressed by: Google's approach to Data Center and Google position towards China.

    This book is a good read and I recommend it if you want to find more information on Google or want to see the world as they do.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Helen 06-17-11
    Helen 06-17-11 Member Since 2010

    running2remake

    HELPFUL VOTES
    16
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    "I learned therefore I loved...."

    This book is interesting and informative. It's historical and at the same time nicely considers current events and future prospects. The interview was a fun surprise!

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Williams 10-27-14 Member Since 2014
    ratings
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    "A very thorough look into Google"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes. This book is ideal for anybody in the tech industry or who has a passion for tech.


    Any additional comments?

    Into the Plex covers a very comprehensive history of Google, from it's beginning at Stanford to the introduction of Google+. Unfortunately, this book was published too early to cover things like the NSA Prism debacle, but that's no fault of the author's.

    If you're looking for a thorough biography of Google, this is a wonderful choice.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Dietrich 09-04-14 Member Since 2014
    ratings
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    24
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    "Don't Be Evil*"
    If you could sum up In the Plex in three words, what would they be?

    Interesting, amazing and disturbing. It's great American entrepreneurial tale, but in the back of my mind I couldn't escape the realization that the core of their business is selling ads. Billions of dollars in ads, and said billions they spend like drunken sailors.


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

    Barbarians at the Gate, because that book features a similar value toward large sums of money and the desire to own everything.


    What three words best describe L. J. Ganser’s voice?

    Neutral, bland and unexciting. There were a few pronunciation curiosities... "DEC" is usually pronounced "Deck," and to the best of my knowledge, "Vista" in "Alta Vista" is not pronounced "Vee-stuh." Small quibbles, though.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    It's worse than you think.


    Any additional comments?

    I enjoy Steven Levy's books. Hackers is one of my all-time favorites. BUT it's clear that the cost of the level of access to Google that Levy was granted came at a cost of objectivity. Still, it's an interesting story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura Lea Evans 08-31-14
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    20
    10
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    "Who Knew?"
    What made the experience of listening to In the Plex the most enjoyable?

    This book put "faces" upon the Google facade removing the veil of mystery. Understanding more about "do no evil" as a company mantra was very significant to me along with the basic thread of user services that was explored and amplified in the book. The ubiquity of Google overshadows the fact that real people are doing real work behind the scenes and the story covered that so very nicely, putting humanity first.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I honestly don't have an answer for that. Demystifying Google probably.


    What does L. J. Ganser bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    The book is heavy left brain data so a narrative really enhances the experience whereas the right brain, in reading might give up totally! LOL


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

    Heavens no! I enjoyed it in bits and drabs while working.


    Any additional comments?

    Good expanded material and interview at the end of the book which was a surprising bonus and appreciated by this listener.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 21-30 of 149 results PREVIOUS123415NEXT
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  • Rock
    London, United Kingdom
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "Fascinating account"

    Great insights into the amazing ascent of Google from an author who clearly has had some high level access.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Colin
    Shepperton, United Kingdom
    4/7/13
    Overall
    "OK-but don't get too ecited"

    This book is an OK look at Google and the rise of the search engine as it grows from early concept to where it is now and as it looks to enter new markets. However, there is nothing particularly new in the book over what you hear on the media regularly. Amd I have to say, although this may jut be me, I do find the narrators voice and intonation quite irritating!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Joe
    Kilkenny, Ireland
    4/7/13
    Overall
    "Fascinating, super read."

    The last time I read a Steven Levy book was back 2001, the fascinating 'Insanely Great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer that Changed Everything'. Levy takes on a similar subject here, examining the birth and development of Google. I have to say, I thought this was an excellent read, with a thorough and comprehensive story and a clear theme as Levy focuses on the culture which the founders instilled into their organisation. The chapters on the early days were fascinating, and insights into Google's technology eye-opening, and the book left me with a whole new perspective on Google. If you enjoy technology books you'll love this!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • judith
    canary wharf, United Kingdom
    3/18/13
    Overall
    "Thorough job"

    Very complete history of an amazing company. I found the book more worthy than fun.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mark
    Middlesbrough, United Kingdom
    3/11/13
    Overall
    "Great Listen"

    I found this book inspiring; this book is constructed in a way that it keeps you engaged from start to finish. I was disappointed when it ended, even if your not into technology the leadership principles demonstrated are sound.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Adrian
    Norwich, United Kingdom
    2/25/13
    Overall
    "I warmed to the Google empire"

    A fascinating insight into the minds of the Google founders, leaders and employees. The author did come across as a bit of a fanboy, particularly when Microsoft came up and that dented the my enjoyment and his credibility a very small amount.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • David
    Stockholm, Sweden
    5/4/12
    Overall
    "A vision"

    As a software engineer I've used Google since it raced past AltaVista et.al. This book provides a interesting
    It covers history, founders, obstacles, technical achievements - but also philosophy and ideology.
    The best parts are the anecdotes sprinkled through the book.
    Of course it is a bit biased. Focus are on the successful stories. Start and end are almost recruitment advertising...
    I also find a bit to long. As a developer I would love to have more technical details/anecdotes. I had expected more regarding Android - and less regarding self steering cars.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • gordon
    london, United Kingdom
    8/22/11
    Overall
    "good, if long"

    this book went on and on and on, but it was fascinating in parts and really informative. i certainly learned a lot about google and the culture within. given i use google every single day, it was interesting to see how it developed and the trials and tribulations along the way.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • A User
    6/20/11
    Overall
    "Great inspiration"

    This story about Google has been a great inspiration for me. It shows how many cool things are possible in the world of computer science. After a year's break, this book has motivated me to continue with my CS degree. For that, it deserves a 5 star rating.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Phillip Hutton
    6/11/11
    Overall
    "Great Book"

    I really enjoyed this business book. Great insight into how the guys moved from startup to the power house that it has become. The whole China thing was eye opening. You all need to read this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 21-30 of 32 results PREVIOUS1234NEXT

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