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)
If you use Gmail, Google Search, Google Analytics, hell, any Google product at all, or you've ever been frustrated by the bureaucratic process, you owe it to yourself to check out this book.
The book was very well narrated and written. It was just a bit boring.
For the person not up on tech, the content may be more revelatory but for a blog follower on all things tech it was a bit underwhelming.
I also think the author was too close to google to give an objective report. More a collation of news that we, for the most part, know.
Alas, it passed the time during a few commutes. 2.5 stars - bland.
Steven Levy has successfully gathered all the details necessary to tell the story of Google - to the present in early 2011. The most interesting sections deal with Google's experience in China, insights into the Google culture in the US and abroad, and how particular decisions were made from the beginning. The growth of Google is here, conflict along the way is presented, and the ethical and technological challenges covered. The only downside of the book - it is too early to know how Google will adjust to being a a "big company." A benefit of the Audible version is the "extra" interview section at the end. The reading of L. J. Ganser is excellent, the writing is engaging, and the book informative.
More of a "20/20" investigation of Google than anything else. Does assume you have the name familiarity that he does which can get difficult to follow at times.
20 hours is a long time to explain only a decade, and there is some redundancy.
The stories, are excellent. Steven obviously had an "all access" path in Google. If you have any questions about this company, or consider them on any level, there is information in this you'll be excited to hear.
This is a must read for anyone who wants to truly understand Google. Their struggle and why they do what they do is so interesting. There's a lot of high level knowledge in this book that I've adopted into my work ethic. Now all I need is a copy of their OKR and apply it to everything!
Say something about yourself!
If you have listened to the earlier books "Search" and "Google", then you have not heard what this book has to say. It is excellent and covers many more products than just search. It is also extremely current.
First, a disclaimer. I simply could not get past chapter 8 although I really wanted to. This book was clearly well researched, written, and read. But unlike Walter Isaacson's "Steve Jobs", which I found fascinating and thoroughly entertaining, there was nothing in this book of human interest to make the story come alive. Certainly it's a must read for industry enthusiasts, or any entrepreneurial type for that matter. As I am neither of those, however, it fell flat for me and I am giving up.
A fascinating and sometimes scary look into the power and depth of whatever Google is really trying to be. The concept of “cloud computing” where files on our personal computers/phones/whatever …no longer exist….” asks us to place all of our trust in a company that appears to mean well ………. that appears to have our best interests at heart – but when and where have we heard all of that before and what were the outcomes?
A great – “should/must read” for all of us who use many of Google’s services on a daily basis.
This is great read on the history of Google, it's founders (Larry Page and Sergey Brin), and search technology. In the early days of the internet if you had typed in "newspaper," you would not have gotten "New York Times" or "LA Times" because they didn't have "newspaper" in its title. You had to know exactly what key words would generate the results you wanted. It's amazing to think how far search engines have come -- as you type, they predict what you want and populate key words for you. It is due to Google's extreme focus on technology and goals (speed, measurement, refinement, and openness). And there are many more amazing Google technologies that work seamlessly into our lives, which I have forgotten about -- Google Earth, Google Maps, Google Translate....
There is a lot of reference to "Googley" people and culture and the company's motto of "don't be evil." I think some readers will find it as a bias towards Google. I think it simply describes a workforce obsessively dedicated to doing what they love. For example, many might argue that Google's entry into China was a major stumble and the book doesn't place much accountability on the executives of Google. I think it was daring that Google did that. Selling technology in China is a high-risk proposition. Corruption and copyright infringements turn many companies away from China. Google had to know failure was very likely. Google took a chance to do something for the people of China. Although they censored results as required by the Chinese government, the users were informed on the page whenever results were censored. It was a small step... but an important step to reflect the value of openness -- the Chinese people were told when they weren't getting everything they wanted to see because the government was censoring it.
An excellent treatment of the ups and downs for Google. Very interesting information about one of the most secretive companies in the world!
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