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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

4.3 (3468 )
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Amr 09-18-11
    Amr 09-18-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    14
    14
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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 2015

    running2remake

    HELPFUL VOTES
    16
    ratings
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    36
    24
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Overall
    "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
  •  
    Dany Cervantes Staten Island, New York 08-28-15
    Dany Cervantes Staten Island, New York 08-28-15 Member Since 2015
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    108
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "This is a company I interact with everyday."
    Where does In the Plex rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    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.


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

    The Innovators. Because they are both about computers, programming, and the key people who played a role in advancing the science.


    Have you listened to any of L. J. Ganser’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No. It was real easy to follow and understand his reading.


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

    For the most part. It was interesting, well written, and kept me listening for hours. I finished it in two days.


    Any additional comments?

    The innovation and moral compass of this company make it a favoured company to do business with.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    EMFORD 08-21-15
    EMFORD 08-21-15 Member Since 2013
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    9
    3
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    Story
    "An interesting look into Google."

    The book was a very interesting listen. I think that it apeals to me because I am very technically inclined.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dawn 08-19-15
    Dawn 08-19-15
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    58
    9
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    "Wipe the brown off of your nose Levy."

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rod portland, OR, United States 08-10-15
    Rod portland, OR, United States 08-10-15 Member Since 2012
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    8
    7
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Fascinating insights"

    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!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark W. Retzlaff Sacramento 08-08-15
    Mark W. Retzlaff Sacramento 08-08-15 Member Since 2014

    Mark Retzlaff

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    8
    2
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    0
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    "Fascinating glimpse behind Google"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bryan kingwood, TX, United States 08-02-15
    Bryan kingwood, TX, United States 08-02-15 Member Since 2015
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    23
    6
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "too much about the people involved"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    more about how Google actually worked instead of so much about its advertising


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rodger 08-02-15
    Rodger 08-02-15 Member Since 2014
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    13
    1
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    Story
    "Very in-depth"

    this is an incredibly detailed description of what Google does and how they do it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barbara J. Blender Denver, CO USA 07-26-15
    Barbara J. Blender Denver, CO USA 07-26-15 Member Since 2015

    Jean the Bookie

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
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    "Great listen!"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • 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
  • Gisele
    Ottawa, ON, Canada
    6/11/11
    Overall
    "iLike"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • vj14
    Newark, NJ, United States
    8/30/12
    Overall
    "Great!!"

    Awesome book!! Really enjoyed it

    Excellent narrator and story. Totally worth your money. +1 +1

    Steven is reallty good

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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