Author(s): Steven LevyDownload
Publish: Published April 12th 2011 by Simon Schuster
ISBN: ISBN 1416596585 (ISBN13: 9781416596585)
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.
Some Reviews: 28,226 ratings 836 reviews in Goodreads.com
The same principle applies to the company’s internal structure and culture, and to how it has approached all of its products. And it all makes sense. This is Levy’s great accomplishment: tying together all the good (search, ads, YouTube) and all the bad (privacy scandals, antitrust lawsuits, patent wars) in a way that is completely intuitive – kind of like Google search itself.
While every part of the book is interesting and essential in understanding how Google came to be GOOGLE, the final chapter is the most fascinating of all. Here Levy looks at Google’s missteps – China, and the failure to see the importance of social media for example – and projects the future of the company that wants to make the world’s information free and accessible to all. It’s intelligent, nuanced and honest about Google’s situation.
Steven Levy is a journalist, and he expertly tells Google’s story while staying on the right side of the line that separates praise from evangelism and criticism from contrarianism. Brilliantly written and comprehensive in scope. Easily worth the time it takes to read to the very end.
The book goes on to tell how Google expanded from search into a large set of other markets.
One of the most engaging chapter tells the tale of Google’s adventure in China. The chapter is filled with so much thrill, suspense and humor that it easily rivals works of fiction.
Later chapters talk about a different Google; a giant corporation who finds it hard to compete with smaller, more agile startups and who is exceedingly seen by the public as a secretive company with too much power, too much information and suspicious interest in a very wide range of markets.
One thing that I found rather strangely presented in the book is how exactly Google decides which markets it is going to enter (many times offering its services for free). In parts of the book you get the feeling that it is a personal decision of Google’s founders and CEO. In others, the very weird argument that (what is good for the internet is good for Google) is presented.
I would very highly recommend this book for anyone (especially with a tech/engineering background). It is totally worth the read.
There’s a big part of this book that is just about telling the story of Google. How it started, how it has grown to be the Internet giant that it is now.
But it’s the Google story told by a journalist with a long relationship with Google. This doesn’t affect his integrity but I think it makes him sees the world as Google sees it. Judge Google by their intentions rather than their actions. He’s like one of those “embed” journalists that travel with the U.S. forces in Iraq. After a while, he starts to be one of them. This issue confirms my guess that this is a fan-boy book.But as I read on, the author raises questions about Google losing its soul (my words not his), and how it was transformed from an Internet startup to a giant corporation, and how all this affect Google. He’s not a fan-boy, he’s a fan of Google for sure but the way it was not necessarily the way it is or would be.
The story is told in terms of topics and products. Starting with important products to less important topics and failed products. This causes some jumps in the time line forward and backward which could be frustrating. At least I felt that sometimes it lacks connecting all those stories together.
There’s a focus in the book on technical details. They’re explained in plain English in a way simple enough for a reader to understand but are also very intriguing for a developer or a person with technical background.
There are two stories in the book that I was impressed by: Google’s approach to Data Center and Google position towards China.
This book is a good read and I recommend it if you want to find more information on Google or want to see the world as they do.
In the Plex paints Page and Brin as humans who love humanity, but seem to disdain other actual humans. Page’s need to sign off on every new hire seems like and incredible waste, coming from people who pride themselves on engineering and efficiency. They seem to look down on anyone without a degree, which makes me wonder just who fixes their Priuses when they break down?
Still, Levy’s writing is wonderful and this book was a joy to listen to. It came across as balanced and insightful. I know more about and appreciate more about Google now than I did before, though the book makes just as plain Google’s faults and blindspots. For people with degrees decreeing that “the use is always right” they strongly say often that what people want is the wrong thing and that humanity should only want what Google wants.
So, all-in-all, a great listen (or read if you’re so inclined). I would recommend anything by Levy.