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In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives Hardcover – Bargain Price, April 12, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 199 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, April 12, 2011
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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.)
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"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)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (April 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416596585
  • ASIN: B0054U53WG
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (199 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,376,669 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you'd ask me, which technology journalist should write a book about Google, then Steven Levy would be high on my list. Steven's been around for a long time and wrote the excellent "Hackers" and the not so excellent "The Perfect Thing." He is able to write about technology in an engaging way, making "In the Plex" and insightful book about how Google works... and how it doesn't work.

The book is roughly organized around products (or projects). Since the book is about Google, it must start with the world of search and how Google was founded in Standford. How the two Googler founders were free-thinking Montessori idealists with an huge interest and background in technology stumbled on the idea of raking based on 'citations' and creating the world changing search -- google.com. It provides interesting stories about how advanced the Google search actually is and how it tried to learn from all the data it collects.

The second chapter takes Google from the start-up to a profitable company with Google Ads. The uncool product that became a cool product by changing the perspective from "boring ads" to an interesting technological problem. How to make ads useful? Introducing the auction, removing any middle-man and just do it based on data and algorithms was the trick Google used to ruin the existing markets of ads... or should I say, take it over. The Google Ads did lead to profit, which in turn lead to growth and...

To chapter 3 and an IPO. Google was funded based on VC money and they will expect to go public, so they can get their investment back. But Google didn't want to do that the traditional way... no... it had to be different. Nerdier, Googlier. They wanted to also disrupt the financial world, but that financial world didn't take Google too serious.
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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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