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)
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.
I enjoyed the book all the way. You hear about the reasons for some of the choices Google have made. For me, the book feels like it have been written by someone inside Google, with all the insider information, but at the same time not able to unbiased. In the book, Google's decisions are always for the good (and I believe that is the truth almost all of the time) and the people against Google just don't get it or wants to get money out of Google. I'm missing the other side of the discussion.
The book jumps back and forward in time, a lot. As the topics changes, you often go bad in time to visit the origins of the topic. The reader needs to keep attention or an important part of the story can be missed. With that said, I don't really know how else to do the story.
If you're planning to pursue a career in technology or want a peek into how we got here, this book is a great read. Google has truly transformed the way we live and this book provides great insights into the inner workings of google.
Levy does a fantastic job unpacking the complexity of google, how it thinks, how it works, and most importantly how it makes money. highly recommended.
I listened to this book almost every day - in the car, on the way to work, whilst cooking dinner - it's genuinely inspiring! The book strikes the right balance between being entertaining and informative and I don't think you'd need to be technical at all to understand or enjoy what is way more than a chronological record of events. I'll certainly be gifting it to friends!
Really enjoyed the knowledge this book had inside. Some of the information was a bit tedious, but it was an eye opener.
I lost respect for Google. in some ways as a result of this book, but the fact remains, Google has created the greatest company imaginable.
Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
In the Plex”, is a journey into “the force” of Google nation. Like Star Wars, Steven Levy reveals good and evil inherent in “the force” as it applies to the Google federation. Levy offers an insightful history of Google’s origin, philosophy, and growth.
Google exemplifies the “information age” by creating a search engine for all human knowledge and experience. Google endeavors to accumulate a comprehensive data base of the world’s knowledge while creating a search engine for anyone seeking information.
Collection and search of information is as potentially evil as it is good. Google’s explosive growth as a search engine skunk works is as likely to be a tool of a Star War’s like Evil Empire as a Star War’s Federation. The metrics of Google’s growth boggles the mind; particularly when one considers the bulk of their employees (engineers) are some of the smartest people on the planet.
Levy’s book reveals the best and worst of the Google complex. Page and Brin are among the best and brightest of the 21st century but Google’s founders and employees, like all human beings, are fallible and subject to all the sins of humankind; not the least of which is hubris and greed.
Yes. This book is ideal for anybody in the tech industry or who has a passion for tech.
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.
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.
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.
Like peeling off the roof of Google and getting a SimCity view inside as googlers work. I feel I can see behind the Google.com search box facade. I like what I see.
Awesome book!! Really enjoyed it
Excellent narrator and story. Totally worth your money. +1 +1
Steven is reallty good
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