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In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives [Kindle Edition]

Steven Levy
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (144 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $27.00
Kindle Price: $14.57
You Save: $12.43 (46%)
Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc

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Book Description

Written with full cooperation from top management, including cofounders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, this is the inside story behind Google, the most successful and most admired technology company of our time, told by one of our best technology writers.

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 readers inside Google headquarters—the Googleplex—to show how Google works.

While they were still students at Stanford, Google cofounders 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, 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 its unapologetically elitist approach to hiring, Google pampers its engineers—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? 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 ever turned Google inside out as Levy does with In the Plex.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The contradictions of the Internet search behemoth are teased apart in this engaging, slightly starry-eyed business history. Wired magazine writer Levy (Hackers) insightfully recaps Google's groundbreaking search engine and fabulously profitable online ad–brokering business, and elucidates the cutting-edge research and hard-nosed cost-efficiencies underlying them. He also regales readers with the "Googley" corporate culture of hip techno-capitalism: the elitist focus on braininess, the campus game rooms, the countercultural rectitude of billionaire founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin (which can read more like puerile arrogance as they roller-blade into meetings with business-suited squares). Levy's narrative updates a familiar portrait of the company, with breathless accounts of recent innovations. He offers a smart analysis of the tensions between Google's "âÇÿDon't Be Evil'" slogan and its censorship of its Chinese Web site and the privacy implications of its drive to sponge up all information—but he accepts Google's blinkered conception of e-ethics and its demands for huge tax breaks with too much complacency. (Apr.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review

"Dense, driven examination of the pioneering search engine that changed the face of the Internet.

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.' The author capably describes Google’s founders, Stanford grads Larry Page and Sergey Brin, as sharp, user-focused and steadfastly intent on 'organizing all the world’s information.' Levy traces how Google’s intricately developed, intrepid beginnings and gradual ascent over a competitive marketplace birthed an advertising-fueled 'money machine' (especially following its IPO in 2004), and he follows the expansion and operation of the company’s liberal work campus ('Googleplex') and its distinctively selective hiring process (Page still signs off on every new hire). The author was afforded an opportunity to observe the company’s operations, development, culture and advertising model from within the infrastructure for two years with full managerial cooperation. From there, he performed hundreds of interviews with past and current employees and discovered the type of 'creative disorganization' that can either make or break a business. Though clearly in awe of Google’s crowning significance, Levy evenhandedly notes the company’s more glaring deficiencies, like the 2004 cyber-attack that forced the removal of the search engine from mainland China, a decision vehemently unsupported by co-founder Brin. 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 (starred review)


Product Details

  • File Size: 2400 KB
  • Print Length: 437 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1416596585
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (April 12, 2011)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003UYUP6M
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,470 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
79 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Major Insight Into Google April 13, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Ever since its inception, and in many cases even before it became incorporated, Google has been referred to mainly in the superlatives. The briskness with which it became the dominant player in online search, the sheer size of its operations and the infrastructure, the incredibly short time within which it became one of the largest companies in terms of market capitalization - all of these are the stuff of legends. It is unsurprising then that Google would attract a high level of media attention, and there are literally hundreds of articles written about it every day. (I know this because I just did a quick search for Google in Google News.) Over the years there has also been no shortage of books on Google. However, in terms of the depth and breadth of its research, as well as the amount of first-hand information that it provides, Steven Levy's "In The Plex" stands in a category of its own.

In the minds of its founders and most of the early employees, Google is first and foremost a technology company. The business model of online advertising came about almost as an afterthought, and one continuously gets the sense that its purpose is to pay the bills so that Google geeks can have a free reign in pursuing their latest techie interest. This attitude is an integral part of Google's DNA, and any book that aims to provide the reader with a better sense of what Google is all about needs to get this point across. Unfortunately, there have been several books in recent years that were more concerned with all the intangible aspects of life in the age of Google and had almost completely missed this point. "In The Plex," I am happy to say, did not fall in that trap.
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82 of 93 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Google book...ever April 10, 2011
Format:Hardcover
Among recent great books describing the business and impact of information technology, In the Plex is one of the best. As impactful as Pulse: The New Science of Harnessing Internet Buzz to Track Threats and Opportunities, and with story-telling as engaging as Idea Man: A Memoir by the Cofounder of Microsoft this book will be on the shortlist of 2011 "must reads" in the business of technology.

One of my favorite writers, Steven Levy of Wired, gained what may be unprecedented access to the employees and upper management of Google in order explore the history, the work environment key management decisions of one of the most innovative and culturally-influential companies of all time. Google manages this with 24,000 employees who see Google as the perfect employer for them. Levy describes Google as a place for the "unspeakably brainy", a kind of "geek never-never land" - just the right kind of environment to maximize innovativeness. Among the perks is the requirement for every engineer to spend a share of their time on personal projects. And as daunting as it sounds, Levy says Co-founder Larry Page actually still signs off on every single hire.

The co-founders Sergey Brin and Page literally started Google from a garage. (The name was a misspelling of the mathematical term for 10 to the 100th power - Googol. But the name stuck.) Their big idea: efficient searches and how to make money at it by selling keywords. Levy then leads us through Google's history of fantastic growth and innovation focusing mainly on big decisions in the firm.
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101 of 125 people found the following review helpful
By Reader
Format:Hardcover
If you want a good history of Google's early years, this is the book for you. The author, a Google booster, had unparalleled access to current and former Google employees and presents more information about the history and development of the company than has reached print before. If you're interested in the causes of Google's recent stumbles, though, the author's hagiographic approach gets in the way of understanding. Here are a half dozen "evil" approaches from the "don't be evil" company that simply are not adequately explained.

(1) Google went into the China market and self-censored itself based on what it understood the Chinese autocrats wanted it to do. It didn't get out of China until the Chinese government launched a sophisticated hack that not only broke into and stole Google's top secret code, it stole the gmail contact lists of Chinese dissidents. Why didn't Google recognize the slippery slope of the rationalizations that allowed it to participate in this charade, especially co-founder Sergey Brin, who had escaped from a similar regime?

(2) Google was initially in favor of the positive public good of "net neutrality" when it was trying to break into the field, but suddenly it's no longer in favor of such neutrality for wireless. Why the about-face?

(3) In its book scan project Google initially took the legal position that what it was doing was fair use, and the author makes clear that the legal community thought it would win on this point. (p. 362). Yet ultimately Google bought into a suggestion from the Writers Guild of America that Google should become the designated internet bookstore for copyrighted books that are out of print and that it should create a registry to determine who should be paid for the books.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars But a terrific look at Google
Starts off strong with a breathtaking description of Google's past. Started to struggle to maintain interest as the book kept going and going. But a terrific look at Google.
Published 10 days ago by Daryl Chan
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
An excellent overview of how Google came about, hope there is a continuation!
Published 14 days ago by John James Ransom
5.0 out of 5 stars Intimate view of Google
A very well written book by Steve Levy about Google. It does an excellent job of illuminating the corporate DNA that has made Google who it is. I'd recommend highly recommend it.
Published 14 days ago by Andrew
4.0 out of 5 stars very good insight into google and it's success
very good insight into google and it's success. Enough technical info to give you a hint on how it's done without revealing secrets. Read more
Published 15 days ago by Liza Westwood
4.0 out of 5 stars while the young people in US started up new IT companies like google,...
In 200X, while the young people in US started up new IT companies like google, twitter and facebook, China built the great firewall.
Published 21 days ago by amay
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Book - Maybe to Close to be Critical
Interesting book interesting subject. He gives a lot of details on the rise of Google. Only complaint is he seemed to be a bit of a homer.
Published 23 days ago by Michael J. Marks
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Great book. Seems to me like Google may be posed to take over the world one day. Read the Bezos book if you liked this!
Published 1 month ago by J. Cunningham
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Would have appreciated if ther had been more focus on the management styles of the two principals. Didn't feel like I got to really know them
Published 2 months ago by Rober S. Stall
4.0 out of 5 stars A great book on a great company by a great writer during a great...
I liked the stuff on Udi Manber and his rise even before he came to Google. He's an amazing character in the book. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Ray Pereda
5.0 out of 5 stars An important story told in real-time
A real life story that had to be told and must be read.

Google changed the world multiple times in the last fifteen years. Read more
Published 3 months ago by NJ
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This would be an excellent addition!!! so many cowboys out there sending shoddy alternatives.
Mar 21, 2012 by Wyndham |  See all 7 posts
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