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

Steven Levy
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
RRP: 18.99
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Book Description

12 May 2011
It is best known for its search engine, but as Steven Levy explains, Google's ambitions go far beyond internet searching. It has moved into mobile phones, computer operating systems, television, and is the most powerful company in the advertising business. Its advertising business produces revenues so substantial that the company has no difficulty funding all its other projects. The company has an unusual corporate culture, which Levy describes. The founders are often seen on Rollerblades, there are exercise breaks for employees and certain foods are either free or minimally priced. There is simultaneously an atmosphere of seriousness and playfulness. What role this corporate culture plays in the company's success is one question that In the Plex will address. For example, every Googler has 20% time -- employees are allowed to spend 20% of their time on projects of their own devising. No manager can prevent this. Some successful corporate businesses have come from 20% time. Levy provides the background on Google's decision to enter the Chinese market, a decision that was controversial within the company at the time and which has recently made news as Google threatens to withdraw from China. He explains how "cloud computing" is the next frontier for Google, and he takes the reader into product development, including products that should be reaching market around the time the book is published. He explains what Google is doing to counter the rise of social networks such as Facebook (Google has its own social network), real-time competitors such as Twitter, and the looming risk of government regulation because of its dominance of the internet.

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In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works and Shapes Our Lives + The Google Story + The Facebook Effect: The Real Inside Story of Mark Zuckerberg and the World's Fastest Growing Company
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (12 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416596585
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416596585
  • Product Dimensions: 23.8 x 16.2 x 3.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 26,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

`Levy has outdone them all. He has produced the most interesting book ever written about Google. He makes the biggest intellectual challenges of computer science seem endlessly fun and fascinating' --Guardian, 1 July 2011

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Major Insight Into Google 14 April 2011
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By Mr. G. Carroll VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
I bought this book automatically because I had previously read and enjoyed Levy's previous works: Insanely Great, Hackers and Chaos. Given his heritage covering technology companies and personalities as both an author and a journalist, I was curious what he would make of Google.

The book is expansive and provides a lot of additional colour around Google, some of which I found of interest as I had worked at Yahoo! competing against Google and working with some of the early darlings of the web 2.0 movement - Flickr and Delicious. There were a couple of things that surprised me such as Google's use of machine learning on areas like translation explained why grammar is still so bad in this area as it needs heuristics that lexicographers could provide similar to that offered by Crystal Semantics.

Overall it was interesting to see that as with most large organisations Google is not only fallible but run through with realpolitik and a fair bit of serendipity. This contrasts with the external perception of Google as the technological Übermensch. A classic example of this is the series of missteps Google made whilst competing in China, which are documented in the book. From staffing practices, promotional tactics and legal to technology; Google blew it's chances and Baidu did a better job.

As an aside it was interesting to note that Google used queries on rival search engines to try and work out how to comply with Chinese government regulations, which is eerily like bad practices that Google accused Bing of last February in `hiybbprqag'-gate.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm Feeling Lucky! 3 July 2011
Format:Hardcover
As someone who has read all the current books about Google, this is easily the best book written yet.

The book covers the company from the early days up until late 2010 / early 2011. The book is an excellent example of a business biography and the author has clearly received a wide and long access to senior Google staff.

If you want to read about Google, this is the one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb. Very detailed. 16 Dec 2013
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Very good audio. You need this in your collection to really understand Google. It is about 20 hours long and very well read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In the Plex 24 April 2012
By Rolf Dobelli TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Journalist Steven Levy's previous books about Macintosh computers and about hackers make him the perfect insider-outsider, with the knowledge to write a detailed history of famously private Google. Granted unprecedented access, Levy appears to have insightfully interviewed everyone about every moment of Google's history to present this canonical version of the company's saga. Levy seems a little too close to his subject, so perhaps his book is not a warts-and-all chronicle, but most of the stories are fascinating, and it is all well reported. getAbstract recommends this heavily anecdotal history to readers who are launching a start-up, intrigued by computers and cultural history, or interested in a nice, detailed dose of the truth behind all those Google rumors.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great history of Google 6 Dec 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
What could have been a dry but informative read is a well structured narrative covering the details of technology we use every day and the people behind it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars All good 1 Oct 2013
By Olga
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Arrived quite promptly, well-wrapped and in a good condition. The book itself really eye-opening and interesting, a good read for anyone.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Shocked & disappointed
Having read the first half of the book which I found informative if not very repetitive I was shocked and appalled to read the following, "Matt Harding began posting videos of... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Ross
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book on the Google story
Provides a great in depth look on how Google is - what happened to make it so and some of the war stories from the early days.
Published 17 months ago by Joel Haasnoot
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book
Didn't know much about Google and how it worked. Now I do. Well written and detailed. Personal analysis of the key players was not too sycophantic. Good read.
Published 20 months ago by Bill
4.0 out of 5 stars optimistic, entertaining and informative read
Very interesting and entertaining book about one of the world's most recognisable brands: Google.

Main points from the book:

- do first, sort out the problems... Read more
Published on 19 May 2012 by C. R. Semmens
5.0 out of 5 stars An exciting insight into the world's best-known company
This book gives an amazing insight into one of the world's most innovative companies. The level of access that the author had to many of the movers and shakers in the Google story... Read more
Published on 16 Mar 2012 by freedo50
5.0 out of 5 stars Into the plex
This is a fascinating book for the IT illiterate like me. It is a revelation as to how search engines work. Read more
Published on 17 Feb 2012 by Anita Tovell
5.0 out of 5 stars A comprehensive view of Google
One of the best company biographies I've ever read. Steven Levy is an excellent author.
To write this book he researched over a thousand sources! Read more
Published on 28 May 2011 by fstat
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