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 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.
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!
Pull up a ball. Sit back, relax, and enjoy this googly story about the quirky history of Google and the people behind its making. It's a fun story.
This book ranks among the top ranks.
The Innovators. Because they are both about computers, programming, and the key people who played a role in advancing the science.
No. It was real easy to follow and understand his reading.
For the most part. It was interesting, well written, and kept me listening for hours. I finished it in two days.
The innovation and moral compass of this company make it a favoured company to do business with.
There is some solid info about Googles history but much it book reads like a brochure extolling the virtues of Google for investors or new hires. They are the shinning example of all that is virtuous, brilliant and altruistic. Google is the Camelot of Silicon Valley and they all create rainbows and shit gold wherever the creators go. I really don't want to seem too cynical but this over the top non stop praise just reeks. The Jobs biography cut both ways and let us in on his virtues and flaws. My opinion of Levy has changed after hearing this book. I can't help but wonder how much bias goes into it.
Google is providing so much of our information infrastructure and I for one didn't know the detail of how it operates. This book tells the story clearly and identifies the ethical issues around disruptive innovation in search, advertising, regulation and more. Entertaining as well!
I loved the insider information and background obviously gained from the subjects themselves. I enjoyed the no holds barred attitude of crazy entrepreneurs. Naive and exciting at the same time.
more about how Google actually worked instead of so much about its advertising
For context, I am someone who started using the internet on a daily basis at work for research on a wide variety of topics since in became mainstream/popular in the mid-90s. Author does good job at chronicling several of the big search names from those early days, and that part was interesting. 'Otherwise, not sure what I was expecting to take away about Google, but the business politics, personalities involved, and business plan of making money from ads wasn't that interesting to me.
Jean the Bookie
This book contains lots of insight into the minds of the people inside Google. The reader doesn't need to know much computer jargon to enjoy this book.
"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.
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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