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)
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.
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.
Barbarians at the Gate, because that book features a similar value toward large sums of money and the desire to own everything.
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.
It's worse than you think.
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.
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.
I honestly don't have an answer for that. Demystifying Google probably.
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
Heavens no! I enjoyed it in bits and drabs while working.
Good expanded material and interview at the end of the book which was a surprising bonus and appreciated by this listener.
Started audiobooks years ago. Now instead of pop music on my ride to work or walk around the neighborhood I get enriched and smarter.
The story s complex, and the timelines of different chapters overlap, but Levy stayed on topic while keeping the story in order. We get insight into the people, machines, ideas, and principles that make for a one of a kind complex organization.
Outliers. The whole company is an extrodinary example of what exceptional people can do when they work hard and get lucky.
He does no characters, just reads the story. But he does a great job at that.
The chapter on China. The company prided itself on is morals which up that point were pretty easy to follow. They had to change from "Don't be evil" to pickiing the most beneficial choice. As the chapter unfolds this balancing act get more and more complicated.
If anyone at Google reads this and wants to hire a trauma surgeon, please call...
Since the advent of the Internet, it was probably a matter of time that the society became more data-driven. But the two founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, definitely pushed this process forward like no other people could. As mentioned in the book, this probably had to do with the fact that both guys happened to be educated in Montessori schools (which encourage students to question the authority and follow one's own quest) earlier in their lives. The book provides a fair assessment of how they evolved as Google became a big company, and yet they tried to retain their original goals. Google tends to be criticized for their invasion of privacies, and I admit that I also always felt nervous about what data they were collecting and how they were using them. But after listening to this book, at least I understand their original intentions and appreciate what they have done to a large extent. I thought the book was a bit too long (nearly 20 hours) - perhaps the author could have delivered the same information with a 2/3 of the length. The narrator was very good.
OK, I finished it. 20 hours of info that I really don't need. I'm not a geek, nerd, hacker or computer scientist but I'm probably a dweeb for using a credit on this book. Some parts, maybe 6 hours, were interesting which leaves 13 hours of way too much information for the average person. If 2.5 stars was an option, I'd have gone with that but the narrator was OK so a very generous 3 stars it is.
No one can argue either the phenomenal success of Google, or the fact that it's a little weird. This book gets you behind the scenes to explain how Google became so important to our lives, and to expose a little dirty laundry. Great read!
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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