Executive summary: In The Plex

A look into how Google operates and infiltrates our daily lives.

In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives
(Simon and Schuster)
Steven Levy

Another book about Google, and why not? With Android’s remarkable success, a continuing propensity for unexpected moves (like this month’s investment in solar power), a new CEO, and another round of regulatory battles in the offing, there’s no reason to think the subject’s tapped out.

But you still have to bring something new to the party, and Wired senior writer Levy offers an unprecedented depth of reporting. He’s been poking around the Googleplex’s corridors since the ’90s, and spent two years researching this book, enjoying remarkable access to top-level executives including Brin, Page and Schmidt. His understanding of the workings of the two mysterious motors at the company’s heart—its search and advertising businesses—is a cut above. But the most interesting chapter deals with Google’s disastrous experience in mainland China. There are new details about Google’s blunders, such as hamfisted government relations and security policies that alienated its Beijing engineers. Perhaps most telling, however, was the belief that the company’s mere presence in China would make that society more open, reflecting a “blend of Montessori naiveté and hubris that had served [Google] so well in other areas.” Not this time.