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

Levy, Steven
Simon and Schuster 2011
ISBN 978-1-4165-9658-5
Date finished: 2015-07-16

A detailed history of Google up to 2011, by the author of several other technology corporation histories. Google is notoriously secretive, but Levy was granted a substantial level of access. The book is now 4 years old, but still well worth reading. Things I took away from it:

AdWords, the search advertising product that is the company's primary source of revenue, is stunningly effective at producing cash: Google's revenues reached $1 billion very soon after introducing AdWords.

This constant stream of money has supported everything else: building carefully-designed data centers, developing other products, acquiring other companies, and the famously generous employee perks.

It's an engineering- and data-driven organization, with marketing and business development viewed as secondary. This prevents R&D from being made less functional in order to preserve existing product lines (compare Microsoft and its protection of its own money fountain, the Office suite of applications) but also contributes to the company's insularity and ineffective customer support.

Everyone loved Google when it was the scrappy new upstart, but now it's seen as a privacy-infiltrating behemoth. This doesn't prevent AdWords from generating revenue, but makes it harder for new products to be accepted: the Google Books scanning project triggered class-action lawsuits; the death of Reader traumatized bloggers a lot; and Wave and Google Plus never caught on.

Tagged: business, computing


%T In The Plex
%S How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives
%A Levy, Steven
%K business, computing
%G ISBN 978-1-4165-9658-5
%I Simon and Schuster
%P 407pp
%D 2011
%@ 2015-07-16
%* *

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