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More Google Employees Are Losing Faith in Their CEO's Vision (bloomberg.com)
387 points by pseudolus 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 330 comments

Arguably, Google's best CEO was Eric Schmidt. He's the one that turned Google from a startup into an awesome tech company. But nobody ever accused him of having no vision. That's because vision was not his role. That role was for both founders who acted in a duo CTO role.

Looking at Google today, they have a CEO but no CTO and the founders seem to be not involved in day to day strategy of Google. So, the real problem is that their current CEO is not filling the CTO boots very well and that's a problem because there is no CTO. It's showing. Google's strategy is fine from a financial point of view but less so from a technical point of view.

A bit like MS under Balmer. In fact, Google is starting to act a lot like MS a decade ago; including being arrogant, increasingly isolated, and somewhat tone deaf. I like them a lot less than 10 years ago. Of course Balmer added a whole other level of surreal to the mix that is thankfully missing here. Looking at MS today, they turned things around quite a bit and their current CEO is in an entirely different league than Google's CEO. That's the problem they need to fix. He's alright but not great. They need great. Pichar isn't. That's what those numbers are saying.

In order to understand Google actions it's important to understand a bit of culture at the top as well as who Pichai is.

Pichai spent all his management career at Google. He is undoubtedly a very bright individual but his personal life experience is limited to a single company which was on the rise during his entire career. He came to prominence by inventing the MSIE Toolbar. The thing was quite insidious: when installed, it showed some proxy for the PageRank of the current page (not the real PR). That gave it a reason to call home for every visited page -- this data was used to improve search quality. In addition it distributed Google Search to IE users. Toolbar generated some billions of dollars for Google. Pichai was also instrumental for starting the Chrome project.

Pichai is an extremely shrewd politician. An excellent diplomat. He manages the company by finding the balance between internal power groups. When the company is growing that's all that is needed. That's absolutely not enough when things go sour.

Here is an example. Google Cloud is failing. The fundamental reason for the failure is quite obvious: the margins in the cloud business are much smaller than in the ads/search. Consequently it's starved of good people. After all, if you are in sales why would you work on something which has 5 or 10% margin when you can work on something with 30 or 50% margin? The solution to the problem is also simple -- spin cloud off into a separate business. But that requires splitting up Google's infrastructure. That means a conflict with Urs Hoelzle. Which is impossible for Pichai. He would rather see Google Cloud die than pick a fight with a powerful old-timer like Urs.

That brings me to the Google culture at the top. If you want to have a career at Google you need to do something visible. At the lower levels it means working on a new project. At a VP level you need to start a new audacious project (this is why Google has 6 instant messengers). If it launches you get recognition and money. If not your career slows for a year then you do it again. Once launched, the project is no longer relevant for the career and can be passed to someone else for maintenance where it's starved of resources and slowly killed. This culture was formed long time ago, under Schmidt and Page. Pichai just perpetuated it. As long as ads and search generate healthy amounts of cash this may continue indefinitely. At the same time the new challenges and the new markets are likely to be missed by Google, just like it happened under Balmer at MSFT.

Pichai is status quo.

> At the same time the new challenges and the new markets are likely to be missed by Google, just like it happened under Balmer at MSFT.

This line contradicts with others. My issue is that Google tries too much to enter new markets. Google is fine with starting 10 projects if one of them will be successful and kill others. It is the same thing you wrote.

I suspected that someone might bring it up :). I agree I was not clear.

The distinction is in having a sustained effort behind the project. One may have 6 messengers while none of them gets the resources to succeed. The projects are used for a short-term career advancement, not for a long-term effort to open a new market.

The logic is indeed to have "... 10 projects if one of them will be successful and kill others". It just does not work that way. Google's leadership (the top ~10 people) position themselves above the fight. They don't throw their weight behind one of the (for example) messengers because if it fails it's their failure too (remember Google +?). As a result the users are confused, the resources are spread thin, and none of the 10 wins the market.

> After all, if you are in sales why would you work on something which has 5 or 10% margin when you can work on something with 30 or 50% margin?

It isn't that simple I think. You need to know the volume of each "something". Selling a lot of product A at 5-10% margin is great!

Your comment gives so much more sense to how Google behaves and I thank you for it. May be obvious for some in the field but for me it really is eye opening. Your comment about the 6 different instant messengers was perfect and explains so much.

Why would not having a CTO symbolize Google's strategy shift from tech? Google has more than enough talented tech visionaries at high levels in each of its sub organizations, probably overpopulated with such.

I don't think Google lacks tech direction, quite on the contrary, they still excel and way ahead of the crowds. But they don't have a strategy to make money off from those technologies, other than limited venues like advertising/play store. But that is nothing CTO can solve.

I'd say Google is showing signs of too many captains on the ship when it comes to tech. I'm not going to bore you with all the examples that are being cited elsewhere in this thread but there are plenty of things where people are raising eyebrows lately.

A CTO's role is to provide clarity internally and externally on what a company is doing technically. In absence of a CTO, that role is for the CEO. Pichar is not enough of a credible leader on this front.

E.g. Steve Jobs was a clear visionary leader. Bill Gates was a clear technical founder CEO. They did not need CTOs. Amazon has an effective business oriented CEO that defers to a very strong CTO (Werner Vogels) for technical things.

AWS is no accident; that requires technical leadership (Vogels) and long term strategic thinking (Bezos). Google just got leapfrogged by MS in the same space. I'd argue lack of leadership is a big reason.

Thank you for your clear critique, would you mind clarifying the Google leapfrogged by MS statement? I don’t keep close tabs on Azure.

There have been a bunch of reports citing MS as being second in terms of market share and growing nicely (hence the MS valuations going up), for cloud based deployments rather than third after Google. That's a failure of Google to beat Amazon and not to get beaten by someone else. That happened on Pichar's watch. That's just a small part of Google's business and a huge part of Amazon's business. Puts the whole ads are all there is point of view a bit in in perspective. They are all ballpark in the trillion dollar valuation range so I think the comparison is fair.

Google has been doing not so well in cloud for a very long time, long before Pichai became CEO.

And Microsoft has got some very unique strengths when it comes to Enterprise IT and developer tools.

For example a CTO could say unilaterally "no, we won't help build the great search firewall for China".

For example a CTO could say unilaterally "no, we won't help build the great search firewall for China".

That would be absurd, as such decision has no technical merit.

>That would be absurd, as such decision has no technical merit.

You think a CTO's job is only to decide which technologies to use?

I don't think you have any interest in discussion. CTO's role is of course not just technology related but he can't just veto the management without reason. There are pros and cons to both side for google, and I will be damned if moral reason was not considered when the decision was made, even when there is no CTO.

Yeah, this is my point. CEOs are often too detached from the technology to understand the moral/privacy implications of practically anything.

How is technology at all related to moral implication? That is like too simplistic view of Google CEO that he does not understand privacy implication.

No but that's not a CTO decision.

Or could say the opposite and fire anybody who refused to do their job ...

That’s not a CTO decision.

You are right in your views of them having enough technical leadership.

The main difference I can assume is when you look to 1 or 2 (founders)equal leaders to set vision it’s easier to get behind than however many VPs they have(today).

I do think that Google has a technical vision.

They want more people writing amazing content, and not SEO garbage.

They want to offer people focused answers to their questions.

They want to serve as your personal assistant.

They want people to really trust the first answer they get from Google.

And they want to be deeply integrated with your life.

The thing is: building AWS is more of an engineering project. Achieving Google's list is more of a research project - it's just far harder and less predictable.

Some will even say those goals require artificial general intelligence.

Assuming that's the case, the fact that Google leads the world in AI/ML , hints that they are doing a good job, right ?

First of all, they want to make money. By selling ads, primarily.

They cloned iOS not because they think they can make it better but because they saw how big mobile would get, and didn't like that apple was in control.

They want to cut costs by trying to automate everything with "deep learning and AI."

> They want people to really trust the first answer they get from Google.

Yeah they already messed up this one by going for their ai crap here. I still remember the article about the journalist who google claimed was dead when you googled her name. Not just that but it was nearly impossible for her to contact anyone at google to correct that. Which is not surprising if you consider the arrogance of google. Nobody there even considers that their automation could make mistakes, so why have any way of contacting a real person there that could do anything? Seriously I mean it. That's the only explanation I can come up with after having read countless articles about how google locked down people's gmail for "suspicious activity" and made it impossible to reactivate, or contact anyone who could even provide any information about what exactly is wrong. All the stories about YouTube's inconsistent flagging of videos, false copyright strikes and no way of getting help. Even big channels that have a dedicated representative get a "sorry can't do anything" in many of those cases. If you ever get fucked over by google your only hope is that you can make a post on some big website that will blow up to the point where google sees it might damage their reputation.

We're not the target audience.

When grandma googles something, and sees a "quick answer" does she trust it ? probably.

To be fair, they only lead the world in AI because they bought DeepMind.

Photos, voice recognition/assistant, search, smart reply etc. are not made by DeepMind. Same for their tensor processor hardware and tensorflow.

"They want more people writing amazing content, and not SEO garbage"

I'm not convinced on this one. It feels like they've ceded the SEO spam war to me. As mentioned in the article, they just crudely exclude large swaths of content now instead of trying to filter out actually bad content.

And they have just generally devalued the organic results in favor of ads, widgets, curated stuff...anything that keeps you walled in to Google owned properties or ads. It's fairly common now to have zero organic results above the fold.

As of anything with SEO, it's all guesses.

But in general, the job of SEO's is increasingly being about writing better content and satisfying the user, and less about "tricks". That's true , at least generally.

But when i say better content, better is defined as more engaging, shareable, linkable, clickable. that sort of stuff. This isn't our cup of tea here at HN, but maybe that's what most people go for. Maybe.

BTW, my fun pet conspiracy theory(everybody should have one!) , is that somewhere deep in the belly of alphabet, they have a secret search engine built for engineers, that nobody knows it exists, even the engineers(it uses a google theme), and it's the key behind their moonshot empire. :)

> But when i say better content, better is defined as more engaging, shareable, linkable, clickable. that sort of stuff. This isn't our cup of tea here at HN, but maybe that's what most people go for. Maybe.

Are you kidding? Look at the articles posted on HN. MANY are pure marketing or self-promotion pieces designed to be shared on social media like HN, get clicks, and start discussion.

It’s funny how HN commenters only call it seo, clickbait, and marketing if they don’t like it lol.

The articles here aren't that great. that's true.

But would you say the same about the comments ?

But also, we come here mostly for entertainment. And even in our entertainment we prefer a high-quality discussion.

But Google isn't a tool for entertainment. And people here do complain about shitty Google results.

And to be fair, they also complain about the declining quality of HN. But still, it's better than the alternative communities, probably.

No, for the most part I don’t think the comments here are particularly good.

Plenty of people who think because they’re paid a lot of money to be computer programmers that they can instantly have genius insights into completely unrelated fields. A good amount of “well actually” when any social issue is discussed. Surprising volume of apologizing for discrimination/racism/sexism/etc. under the guise of “free speech”.

Maybe you're right about discussions about social issues.

But for me, that's not the reason i come here. I'm more interested in discussion about entrepreneurship and businesses, and some of the commentors are quite good.

Google wants extractable facts that they can insert directly in the search results. I speculate the users want it too, at least as long as those “facts” are actually true. The more voice makes up the percentage of searches, the fewer searches will be directly to a non-paid organic website.

Anyone trying to build a scalable business and expecting SEO to play a meaningful role probably doesn’t have a firm grasp on what Google has done over the past 10 years and will continue to do. Most businesses, and their investors, should be calculating what their numbers look like if they were to receive 0 free users from Google.

>> Anyone trying to build a scalable business and expecting SEO to play a meaningful role

Maybe true. but it can still, sometimes be an effective tool for small businesses, both in local and organic.

Google's current vision is to try and shape/control the tech landscape to a point where you have to pay them to be found, distributed on or otherwise operate over the internet. They would like to have all search, social interaction and business services to be transacted or facilitated by them, so they can make money from it. That's at direct odds with all the missions you just stated, and is inevitble because of where the dollars ultimately come from.


But once you most people blindy trust the first answer Google gives them , you know what an awesome sales tool that is ?

And instead of advertisers having 4 Adwords + 4 local search(sometimes) + Google shopping + SEO to target placement for - what if everyone competed for the same, single ad placement location ? What would that do ad prices ?

The #1 priority for Google is to sell ads. That's it. Anything else is marketing/nice to haves.

Not an insider, but I was under the impression that Jeff Dean was that visionary. He seems to focus on AI, which sounds like a conscious pivot from Google. Have I missed something?

It’s likely that anyone who works on other projects might feel left out and that would explain your reaction and the article.

They have many visions and no cohesion and no one technical with wide-sweeping power apparently. That's how you get Hangouts + Google Meet + Allo, and evidently, how China gets it's great search blocker. It feels to me like there are many divisions and teams and no one in charge of the collective, from a technical point of view. So yeah, kind of like microsoft in recent years. A many-headed hydra. Cut off a head, grow a new privacy or ethics violation.

Literally none of those are cto decisions.

Wait, our CEO has a vision?

Google company culture strongly erodes for two reasons:

De-facto retirement of Larry and Sergey and significant deepening of the reporting structure in the last few years (ie endless layers of middle management).

Both of these make consistent vision and values much harder to achieve. Recent Googlegeist just reflects that.

Honestly as a Googler I neither saw nor needed the vision of Larry, Sergey, Eric, Sundar, or anyone else except maybe Urs, Jeff, and Sanjay. I mean I worked on the C++ toolchain. Making a bitchin' compiler is its own reward. I guess things are different on product teams?

Your work is crucial for the foundation of whatever Google builds. Unfortunately just like in construction, having a good foundation doesn’t mean that what gets build on top is the right thing.

Well I think of it more like carpentry. I can build a beautiful house and not get upset later that the owner sits on the couch watching game shows on tv all day. Similarly it doesn’t have to bother me that the result of all my optimizations at Google was they had more capacity to let a computer play Starcraft against itself for fifty million CPU-years. Just does not concern me at all as long as my paycheck didn’t bounce.

Are you saying you have no ethic at all ?

Are you comparing yourself to an independent carpenter ?

An independent carpenter would be like a mercenary, who first works to earn money, and then eventually selects his/her clients according to his/her own vision.

A carpenter working for a big corporation would wonder what is the vision of the company, what is he contributing to, beyond the delivering of the building, imo

No, but I am saying that I don’t need any executive “vision” to motivate my work, especially when the executive vision is obviously insipid, like it was with Vic Gundotra and G+. It is motivating enough for me if search gets 10% faster every year. If you hook your motivations to corporate figureheads then you’ll eventually find yourself without any reason to go to work.

If you are a Google employee and you don't care about the executive visions, you are a living proof that Google is made of people who don't even understand what they are working for, beside having a good salary imo.

When you work for a corporation, you are supposed to embrace (and consent to) the company's goal, which is defined by the top level.

Having a search "10% faster every year" looks like a narrow-minded KPI without awarness of a greater purpose.

If you are happy, fine, but I think some people would trade your happiness for their freedom and privacy

There is absolutely no requirement for adoption of any ideology in an at-will employment environment.

You obviously have some kind of very very dull axe to grind. I happen to think that universal search of all knowledge is a thing of significant benefit to humanity.

I feel it's my duty to insert this here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQdDRrcAOjA

I work for cloud products. I cannot say much about others, but at least urs is the best technical infrastructure leader but not a good choice for cloud leader. Many people on customer engineering side also share the same feeling with me.

Business is complicated. You cannot be narcissus forever.

I'm considering applying there. Any hint/help? username @ gmail. Thanks.

Read cracking the coding interview and do a few problems from each section. Make sure to cover dynamic programming. I spent about a month and I was very well prepared.

You'll need to do significantly more than just that.

Really, downvoted? What the crap is going on?

Urs and Jeff were amazing. Something has changed though. Granted it’s been 15 years since I worked there, but some of the incredible spark that used to be there seems to have gone out.

Urs is good engineering manager, but bad business manager. So while he was managing TechInfra, it was ok, once he started to manage Cloud, it wasn't. Interestingly, he is smart enough to realize it, this is why he hired Diane, who managed business side at least more competently. But it looks like Diane didn't demonstrate enough liberal virtue with her support for DoD contracts and got kicked out. Now they hired Oracle dude to replace her, most likely not a great culture fit.

Honest question: does the current Google have the environment to innovate on the next generation of compilers/PL/program synthesizers?

I would have definitely said yes back in the day; but not so sure now.

(Admittedly might be biased. I'm the founder of Synthetic Minds. We're building program synthesizers; basically all compilers work: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19059922)

No I don’t think Google is on the forefront of that type of thing. It’s more of a practical craft. There may be people doing interesting PL research at Google but they aren’t in the language platform team. That said these are probably some of the tightest, safest, and best-tested large-scale C++ programs ever.

Agree with the scale. But do you mean the compilers toolchain is the largest/safest; or the overall C++ codebase. No questions about the latter, but would be surprised if you meant the former.

Out of curiosity: if not the language platform team, then which team does PL research? My email is in my profile of you'd rather ping there.

Also, Larry and Sergey got obsessed with useless and irrelevant things. (Flying cars? Robot butlers? Airship yachts? Glass?)

Those were pretty much the only reasons I continued to admire Google for as long as I did. They gave hope that the company might one day have a meaningful consumer revenue stream that isn’t advertising.

They’ve gone for “cloud services” instead. Drastically, drastically, less inspiring — and also pretty competitive. What happens if Amazon drop their prices a bit?

AWS accounts for something like half of Amazon’s operating revenue. It may not be exciting but it is a license to print money. Why wouldn’t google (and MSFT, and anyone else with a big sunk investment in data centers) want to monetize their investment too?

Originally bezos was pissed off that Amazon’s excess capacity for the Black Friday/Christmas surge was going to waste the other 50 weeks of the year. I suspect that’s a pretty powerful motivation. But google absorbs huge spikes too (9/11 was one of the first harbingers of this) so it seemed inevitable, even back then, that they’d do it eventually.

Fighting the momentum of entire markets and hoping a muse settles on your shoulder isn’t a sustainable business strategy for most companies, let alone very large public companies.

Cloud for Google is like Internet for Microsoft - was in great position to take advantage of and entirely missed.

There was a hard pivot in TechInfra when Cloud became a priority. And there is a business reason for it - if was estimated that with other cloud providers growing and consolidating Google will cease to be hardware buyer #1 and thus will not get best hardware discounts, affecting profitability of Ads/Search. So there was no choice but to get serious about cloud.

As for dropping prices, nothing will happen - clouds already run on relatively small, albeit oligopolic margins. If one provider reduces price, other providers will follow, with a bit less profit for everyone. This happens from time to time.

>>Robot butlers

This is actually pretty cool. The butler part makes it sound silly but if you were able to pull it off it would mean that we have reached a technological breakthrough. It would be very close to a technological singularity.

Speaking as someone who was the caregiver for both my parents as they aged, good lord would it have been wonderful if I could have been able to offload some of those tasks to a 'bot while I enjoyed the remaining time I had with my folks.

forgive me for asking, but why not hire a caretaker/nurse?

Those are expensive. And their presence compromises your family's privacy.

Exactly. We were already hemorrhaging money, and skilled nursing care for even a few hours a week is incredibly expensive. Not to mention you now have a stranger in your home, and without going in to details, we caught some very unsavory behavior via IP Camera with one of the caregivers we'd hired early on.

It's just an incredibly stressful time in a family's life, no matter how you cut it.

Robot butler != skilled nursing care, though.

Who made the claim otherwise?

A butler to handle taking out the trash, cleaning the house, cleaning after your parents while you did the other tasks is already s big help.

I'm afraid having Google's robot butlers around all the time wouldn't do wonders for privacy either.

Better than an actual person though, at least for now.

Is it? The privacy effects of a person are fairly localised, while the effects of having a spying, data collection machine are potentially unbounded.

Are we saying Google's robot butlers won't work without an internet connection? That would severely diminish their value.

Knowing Google, they probably will work, for some definition of work. However, you'll get a lot of extremely convenient online-only features around which an ecosystem will be built, such that ever more people start turning it on and it stops being controversial. They'll also instruct you to connect them to the internet during the initial setup procedure.

At first they'll promise they won't collect a lot of data and you'll always be able to opt out. However, increasingly more data will start getting collected, you'll start having a hard time finding the option to opt out and even if you manage to do it, the UI will progressively get more deceptive and annoying at trying to get you to turn it back on.

Next thing you know, almost everyone has them connected, you're a weirdo if you don't and Google is even more powerful than before.

Glass was interesting product that died on the hands of outrage journalists.

It's possible they Google release another version when technology will be ready (better battery, camera, sound packed into much smaller form & size)

I don't think that's true. Glass died because nobody could think of anything to do with it. Talk about "glassholes" dominated the conversation because there was no other subject to discuss. The explorer program was supposed to let people come up with cool ideas for applications and nobody ever did.

This is broadly true of wearables so far: nobody has come up with a use case for them more compelling than, "shave a few seconds off checking notifications on your phone."

Also Waymo, which seems promising.

one of the reasons I own google/alphabet stock.

Layers of middle management always sucks the life out of companies. And indeed governments. Try working for a bank, and you'll see exactly what I am talking about.

Sure, but just try to make career progress in a flat organization.

How important are vision and values in a situation where not hitting revenue and earnings targets can destroy hundreds of billions? With some of those billions belonging to Google employees...

Don't discount the massive increase in the number of employees. The more people you add, the more the culture dilutes. It becomes impossible for employees to feel like they're part of single a tribe with a clear goal.

Factions develop, tensions mount, and you get angry employees leaking confidential information constantly. Most of the negative press the public has heard about Google in the past year is a direct result of leaks.

It just doesn't feel as "fun" anymore.

I used to work a corporate job in an investment bank with around 30k employees. The majority of those employees were politicking chameleons with little productive output and a disproportionate salary. I used to hope that large innovative tech companies were different. From what I hear on HN it's becoming clear that that's not the case. It's almost as if the "largeness" of a company allows the non productive people to hide within it, all while successfully siphoning off their sustenance.

That's pretty much it in a nutshell. On the other hand, in smaller companies you have to deal with the egos and personality quirks of those at the top because there's nowhere for you to hide from them. Pick your poison.

Eh, I still wouldn't say they're equivalent. A CEO with an ego you can build a strategic relationship with, a headless mass of uncoordinated politicking and beuraucracy is that times 1000, and is often far more impenetrable from the ground floor

I didn't say they were equivalent, just that for those who have only worked in large companies, there are some weeds in that nice green grass they might have been admiring.

I would disagree that it's possible to build a strategic relationship with all small company CEOs... some are just way too dysfunctional.

I’ve had that experience before as well. What always surprises me is how upper management overlooks the opportunity to pocket more money for themselves by cost-cutting the net negative employees. Too often the ones who do it go overboard and completely gut the company to death instead of just making it more effective and profitable.

For example, a company with 5,000 employees might have about 500 positions that could actually be eliminated via automation, improved processes, and removing net negative contributors. If the average fully loaded cost is $100k/year (many old companies still have people not comped as high as Silicon Valley folks), you’re looking at roughly $50 million in dollar savings, not to mention the top performers aren’t distracted by the under-performers.

If I’m at the C-level, it’d be completely reasonable to pitch making this move, pocket an extra $500k for myself, and give $5 million worth of bonuses to the remaining 4,500 people ($1k minimum each), and you’ve still saved roughly $45 million to the company’s bottom line for savings or growth investment or higher comp for top performers. These are all rough numbers, but you get the point.

I suspect companies don’t do this more often because 1) they have a hard time, from the upper management vantage point, knowing where to cut/identifying the poor performers who try to hide, 2) scared to accidentally cut someone actually important, and 3) like managing a “big” company, even at the expense of their own potential executive comp.

Companies do this frequently. It's the annual "Cisco is laying off 7400 employees" or "E-bay is laying off 5000 employees" or "Microsoft is laying off 13,000 employees", where each time the number is suspiciously close to 10% of the company. Commenters on HN usually assume this means that X is in trouble, but really it's a way to get rid of the bottom 10% of the company while passing the cost on to the state's unemployment insurance fund.

Your employer pays into that fund, and when you draw, your employer's premium goes up.

All employers pay into that fund, so tragically, it's pretty cost-effective for any individual employer to exploit those commons.

> I suspect companies don’t do this more often

They do, it‘s classic „rank and yank“, but perhaps slightly harder nowadays due to diversity and other such ideological concerns.


> It's almost as if the "largeness" of a company allows the non productive people to hide within it, all while successfully siphoning off their sustenance.

Bang. You're spot on.

From what I've seen, it's an unfortunate artifact of many (if not most) large companies. There are just too many places to hide.

I'm keen to know if it's the same at Apple and Amazon.

>From what I've seen, it's an unfortunate artifact of many (if not most) large companies. There are just too many places to hide.

I've yet to hear of any large company that doesn't inevitably end up this way.

Yes, it's the same.


I always thought part of the point of how Google is structured was to prevent people from working for the competition. Why have 5 chat apps? Because 5 teams working on a chat app that will get cancelled in two years is better than all those people working on Ads for Facebook right now.

Probably not true but I did really wonder at times. Walking past people waiting in line for 30 minutes to get food when I would just grab a PB&J. Seeing people playing ping pong and video games, the same people every day, all day, as I walked between meetings. I eventually felt like I was Doing It Wrong.

People are people and will do self-serving people things. Don't think any single industry is immune or reserved from this. I have been thinking about this heavily recently as to what I will do with myself when I return to the US later this year.

When interviewing ask the following questions:

* How do you define personal success?

* In the fewest words how do you define product quality?

* Do you require honesty/transparency as a primary cultural value even when it makes people uncomfortable?

> It's almost as if the "largeness" of a company allows the non productive people to hide within it

Yes, absolutely.

Some suggest that a company should not exceed Dunbar's number (150). They say that when a company grown it should split up and work together as two companies to be productive.


Given that large organizations have an ever increasingly larger share of revenue and power in the world, it doesn’t seem like it would be in the interest of the organization’s leaders or equity owners to have it split up.

But people need to take up some of their 150 with connections outside of work. Quite a lot if you have a few family and friends. What does that say about the ideal size of teams?

I've had a similar feeling about how our society deals with people who don't fit in in this way (non-productive), and it's a fun thing to play around with in your head because in a loose way it undercuts a key selling point of organizing your society capitalistically like ours: during the cold war, it was like "yeah well you Soviets just give every lazy bastard some meaningless quasi-task in a widget factory or in some faceless ministry and go around telling the rest of the world there's no unemployment and you're building Utopia. We in the West, otoh, have purpose and let our people put themselves to better use!"

So your observation reminded me that our society has plenty of people on a similar sort of hidden dole: vast corporate structures with uncountable layers of non-productive paper pushers, with a very small proportion of employees setting the vision and another small bunch generating most of the value. A social welfare program by any other name ...

So like do large human groups just inevitably have some subset that doesn't quite fit (in terms of work and productivity) but who need taking care of so we semi-deny their existence ("no slackers here!") while we semi-throw'em a bone ("here's a paycheck, go look at Facebook for a few hours and fiddle with PowerPoint while I harass my secretary")?

> So your observation reminded me that our society has plenty of people on a similar sort of hidden dole:

This is why everyone wants to be university educated. The great bulk of "respectable" office jobs require no real skill or effort, just some cultural knowledge about how to talk like you're contributing.

> We in the West, otoh, have purpose and let our people put themselves to better use!"

AKA people invent novel ways to support themselves when the alternative is starving in the street

Lol yes

Read “Bullshit Jobs” for an anthropologist‘s view of this. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullshit_Jobs

I have been thinking on this. From a capitalist point of view, an Universal Basic Income may be useful to remove non-productive people from companies. I think the productivity increase (because non-productive people tend to drag productive people around them) May very well offset the costs.

It won't work for that.

Some non-productive people are non-productively lazy, and UBI may work for them.

Others are non-conformist creative types, and UBI will half work for them. IMO it's good to have some of these types around in a business to shake things up - as long as they have some practical skills and aren't just dreamers.

Others are primarily interested in accumulating power, and corporations provide a perfect cover for them. They will get off UBI as soon as they can, but they're often incredibly toxic, and large organisations of all kinds are very good at empowering them.

With the odd exception, they're probably the biggest threat to the future of any business. And they're very good at disguising this. They're the people who turn in solid financials and performance stats. But the results are built on rubble, and often their management doesn't discover this until it's too late.

Why are you so concerned with the future of a business you likely have absolutely zero stake in? Why lick the boot that much? What will the boot give back to you? The amount of complete corporate loyalty in this thread is absolutely dense & sickening. It's totally out of touch with reality and a seemingly huge fetish for money & power, destroying the lives of those below you because they've figured out how to work smarter. What even is society anymore? It's everyone just pinning each other against each other. It's depressing. Have some solidarity.

It depends on the large tech company. If you try that at Facebook or Netflix for example, you'll be out on your ass pretty quick.

David Graeber have a thing or two to say about exactly this:


I’m inclined to view this almost as a basic income type situation.

Much can be automated away, but what do we end up if we do that today? We need to find meaning in life other than money for a whole bunch of non-nerds.

It's not the same as a bank. Google is far far ahead of that. HN seems to have pitch forks for anything Google. It's the only company that let's you openly engage with the CEO and hold them accountable.

>It's the only company that let's you openly engage with the CEO and hold them accountable.

That's a very big claim.

I can instant message mine. And I still have my last one's personal mobile number.

How many people in each of those ?

Nx1000 in the current one, a company you've definitely heard of and used, Nx10 in the last one, which you haven't and you haven't.

FAANG aren't the only companies.

So at least an order of magnitude less than any of the Google competitors?

Yes. It has nothing to do with the topic though. Google are an order of magnitude less than Volkswagen.

Of course it does have to do with the topic. I can know the CEOs number in a 10 person startup. And the number isn't the point, the point is having an official unscripted channel to voice concerns.

This isn't that unusual. Being able to text the mobile of the CEO of tech companies with 10k employees -- and get quickly get a response -- is something I've used more than once. Not every big company is like this but I suspect it is more common than you might expect. At least in tech, this is an expectation of the role.

The further from the coal face someone is, the harder their job will generally be to quantify and so the more likely they are to be able to slide by.

Now imagine what government jobs must be like considering their size.

> From what I hear on HN it's becoming clear that that's not the case.

I was hoping you would have a personal experience to share but I guess that's not the case. I wonder how often in anonymous forums people share beliefs (not data) on things they haven't personally experienced but have heard other people on the internet experience (who may have been lying).

Going back to the previous comment, I don't really see how it's possible to grow your employee count by an order of magnitude without introducing 1-2 more levels of management. As much as flat structures are cool, I'm not sure how much they scale. The other option would be to just not grow, but I'm not sure how realistic that is.

I guess it comes down to how you build a hierarchy with a belief or lack of one in Dunbar’s number. I honestly think a lot of this is too low a number of interactions and the requirement to have job titles and responsibilities common to other companies.

Moreover, you stop being the underdog and become the Goliath-- this can be understated. It's easier to rally a tribe behind the banner of defeating a bigger evil/foe, be the unlikely victor in a lopsided battle. I doubt this is a sentiment people working at Google feel much at all any more.

It's not just culture, it comes down to unclear vision. Under Google, it was "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible." Under Alphabet? It's super unclear. "Do cool stuff and make money?"

You should probably substitute "make money" with "subsidize it with our ad money".

Do cool stuff and sunset it a couple of years later

totally anecdotal, but we have seen a fair number of not so great engineers leave our company for google in the last 2 years. these engineers were great prepping interviews (leet code, system design white birding etc), but in terms of contribution, accountability and impact were sub par to their peers. i’m hoping this is indeed anecdotal and not the norm!

Google's seemingly endless new array of products with just as many being discontinued at any one time is an internet meme at this point. Often in threads when Google announced their latest hotness, potential customers are sarcastically guessing at how long until it is killed (some of those guesses ultimately turning out correct).

I've never worked at Google, but it looks like shambles from the outside. Kind of reminds me of a younger Microsoft back when three teams would create three competitive solutions to the same problem (although to Microsoft's credit they still support most of those to this day).

Google really needs to decide what it wants to be, what direction they're going in, and work together. I'm guessing there's some perverse incentives at play for some of this (e.g. promotions/bonuses for new stuff, nothing for updates to existing products, or other "boring" work).

If you take a step back, Google's launch & deprecate cycle for new products actually kind-of makes sense.

Internally, Google is not so different from an ecosystem of VC-funded startups. They try a lot of things. Some ideas work and others don't.

The alternative is to never ship new products out of fear of failure. Or, to indefinitely support everything, regardless of how tiny. Or, to wait so long to derisk a new product that they possibly miss out on a new market (I'm looking at you, HomePod).

At the end of the day, this strategy has worked out well for them, so why stop? For every failure like G+ or Allo, there's a success like Google Photos or Duo.

From a business perspective, Google's way to work with products makes totally sense, as you described. But - and that's that problem I have with Google - from a user perspective, their way to work is unprofessional. Why did this become an internet meme? Because all the projects they launch are launched with a lot of loud tam tam, they advertise them and for new users it clearly feels like this new product is here to stay - only to find out two years later that the product will be cut off. People start to use this new fancy app which is marketed to be the "next big thing". And then later some product manager thinks that it may be not worth to continue working on it.

IMO if Google really wants to try out new things, they should make these things invite-only to find out if they are working and how users interact with it, or clearly mark them as 'beta' or something like that. Google has a huge fan base and the internet is full of people excited to try out new things. But if users clearly see "hey, this is kind of a beta product, I am just testing this out" there would be way less disappointment if the product shuts down after a while.

Gmail was famously in beta for many years, long after it became an extremely important service.

I think Gmail is a good example for how it should be done, one of the few, if not the only good example.

Imo, there are other companies that operate like this but don’t lose customer trust in the process.

I might be biased but I think Amazon is like this.

Remember the fire phone?

The fire phone begat the teams that build Alexa and Go so I’d say we are doing pretty well.

Disclaimer - work in Alexa

Sure, but there's no denying that the phone was an utter, abysmal failure. Alexa could be exactly what it is today without a lot of that development.

> Internally, Google is not so different from an ecosystem of VC-funded startups. They try a lot of things. Some ideas work and others don't.

For some definition of work. They're still mostly (~80-90%) an ad-driven company, after all these years.

This is almost saying uber makes all of its money from ride hailing, almost all these years.

Reality: after 2008, economy boomed, and advertising also did. Advertising, once you have the means, is easier to scale, and high margin. Google stopped relying on just owned and operated properties, and diversified into 3p properties to achieve even more scale

Most other businesses or business attempts require massive operations which google lacks

Even you ramp up non advertising revenue to a billion dollar, advertising will grow more just because it is already big.

This is a strange comparison. As far as I know, Uber doesn't actually make any money. They've operated at losses on a few billion in revenue for as long as I can remember by aggressively expanding their core business. They have maybe one or two side hustles which compliment their core competency. I don't see any comparison that can be made to the way Google operates.

Google Photos is definitely not a success from my POV, sure it’s a nice product but they killed Panoramio because of it and most importantly most of the data behind Panoramio is now lost. I personally don’t know what Duo is, I guess I’ll google it.

Google Photos has 500 million monthly users.

So why did Google decide to delete all those Panoramio photos, then? And user numbers don’t mean anything to Google if they decide to kill a product, look at Google+.

> For every failure like G+ or Allo, there's a success like Google Photos or Duo.

One of these is unlike the other. The amount of money invested into the ultimately-failed G+ is mind-bogglingly immense.

Funny, as I was reading this, I got an email about my Google+ account going away.

Except for every one deprecated product you can name, there's probably more like 10-20 new product. The issue is that Google has gotten so big and has so many different projects, that the number of deprecation is just bigger, even if percentage wise they're probably lower than most other companies.

Try looking at https://gcemetery.co/ and naming how many of those you even recognize and can describe without looking it up. Everyone just loves mentioning Reader, but except the new batch of G+ and Inbox, there hasn't been any significant product killed in a while.

That list seems awfully incomplete compared to: https://killedbygoogle.com/

Your list is missing some high profile products like Google Allo and Chromecast Audio.

That site is also wrong.

News and weather is basically just merging with another app, reply moved into Android (I beta tested reply, and despite the app being gone I still have the features), Tez still exists as a part of pay, showtimes got rolled into normal search, tango was experimental and became arcore, google x very much is still around, glass never left beta as a consumer product and is still relevant as an enterprise product. Chrome frame has no reason to still exist, Quickoffice merged with Google docs, the Nexus line became pixel, noop was a 20% project, not an official google product.

When you remove the garbage, you end up with a company that deprecates a few things each year, most of which you've never heard of anyway.

chromecast audio is replicated trivially by chromecast + hdmi to audio converter(that you can buy for 5 bucks). i think the real problem is that the solution is confusing and people aren't linking up old audio systems. they're upgrading.

chromecast's ux was always waaaaay to complicated to understand for non-tech people and audio is it's first casualty.

I dont think chromecast audio was a high profile product.

Allo is overhyped, from day 1.

It's overhyped now that it's dead.

The Chromecast audio got replaced by the Home Mini for the average consumer looking for a Google audio product.

That site is missing a lot since I thought of a couple right off the bat it didn’t have. Disco, QuickOffice, Songza, Slide, Bump. There have been some other google music/YouTube related shutterings too that I can’t give names too.

I recognized and could explain more than half listed, but only cared about a couple (didn’t care about Reader).

Picasa, the good photo editor in G+/photos whose name I forget, and 7 different chat apps

To be honest, i love new google photos. I was big picasa fan, but i dont regret.

Google's fall from grace mirrors HP's and Xerox's. At some level, CEOs who do not share an altruistic vision espoused by the "rank-and-file" engineers who are more idealistic. I think in Xerox, they were called "toner heads".

When you suck out the soul, the remaining carcass will totter on for a couple more decades, and encomiums will be written to the "well-managed" company in business magazines, but no promising undergraduates will list it as their dream job, and somehow, that's what really matters.

There is no way MBA CEOs can ever do any good to these companies.

Their whole training is to convert high performance engineering places to minimum wage paying furniture assembly shops.

This really resonates

Sundar is neither a founder nor has been a practicing Engineer. That's gotta hurt a company like Google which is mostly Engineering driven.

I guess Google at this point just keep churning through systems because Engineers are incentivized to show impact and rarely end up creating new good products.

Adding tons of new engineers is also probably hurting their overall quality and velocity.

I've read somewhere that Sundar's biggest achievement (and rise in power structure) relates to the saving of day by using practical business sense.

Back in around circa 2006, Microsoft one day suddenly decided to remove Google search and replace it with Bing on their default browser, IE (which was still number one back then). This threatened Google's revenues to a considerable extent as online search is one of the major source of their income.

At that time, it was Sundar Pichai who was in the forefront of managing some quick OEM contracts with Dell, HP, etc., so that Google toolbar was installed by default on all their computers. Google toolbar ensured that users were shown a confirmation dialog and were given the option to make Google search the default again! This later ensured Sundar's rise in power and respect that ultimately made him CEO one day.

One can of course argue that Google is such a superior engine compared to Bing that the users would have visited google.com anyway (which will also result in that option to make it default). However, its also true that most users will not take the pain of changing their setup if it already works! So who knows, if Sundar's intervention hadn't happened at that time, maybe Bing and Google would be on an equal footing today!


Source: Straight from the horse's mouth (Jeff Nelson, Chromebook inventor and former Google employee): https://www.quora.com/What-did-Sundar-Pichai-do-that-his-pee...

Bing was released in 2009, so if this was in 2006 it must have been one of Bing's predecessors.

Yep, it was called "MSN Search" or something back then but it existed.

Probably MSN.

I'm not a Googler but read that Pichai oversaw the growth of Chrome browser from minor player to the dominant position it has today. And he also oversaw Android's growth after Andy Rubin's departure [1].

While he may not have written code that's two world-leading consumer adoption stories. So many great engineers build products that never achieve great adoption. So aren't Pichai's accomplishments worthy of CEO-level promotion?

Recruiting a world-class team, motivating them to achieve such domination, managing their egos amid a huge company full of talented people, executing across the behemoth that is Google... all these are vital skills and as a company grows maybe more of what you need from a CEO than one who is the most talented engineer. (I may be wrong; just a thought).

[1] https://www.businessinsider.com/how-sundar-pichai-rose-to-be...

> oversaw the growth of Chrome browser from minor player to the dominant position it has today. And he also oversaw Android's growth

Couple of personal observations-

Would it have been same if Chrome was not advertised on every google property and google intentionally breaking google properties on competitor browsers?

Also there was really no competition for android.

But not sure if the these two products were not world class then they would have worked.

Did you just forget Windows Phone ever existed? Also Palm and a few others.

And Chrome originally swept the world because it was just so much better (most faster) than everything else. That’s why the tech industry migrated initially, and then the growth tactics probably just kept things moving to grab the number one spot.

In that he's transitively responsible for hiring, he needs to have some familiarity with Google's core competency in order to avoid a turtles-all-the-way-down situation

I am not sure if he oversaw android's growth.

> Sundar is neither a founder nor has been a practicing Engineer. That's gotta hurt a company like Google which is mostly Engineering driven.

He might have not fought in the trenches of engineering. But I've seen his congress testimony. He is such a humble and kind guy while still being a nerd, one of us. If I worked at Google, I definitely would be glad about him being CEO.

As a former Googler I'd like Urs Holzle as a CEO. I might even consider coming back if he's at the helm. Dude is both a solid engineer, and an outstanding leader. I respect him a lot and so do most other current and ex-Googlers. Problem is, Urs probably doesn't want the job. :-)

Urs is decent at being a technical lead. He'd make a great CTO if Google had one (and in many ways I think he is the unofficial CTO), but he's not at all a good leader when it comes to non-technical things, for a variety of reasons. I think you'd very quickly realize you didn't actually want him as CEO.

To give him credit, from what I've seen, he's very aware of these shortcomings and as you say, he'd refuse.

Even on the "shortcomings" he'd be FAR better than Larry could ever hope to be, and Larry wasn't the worst CEO in the world. It's funny how the two very different companies go through the same tribulations, but it's true: Sundar is Google's Ballmer IMO, albeit a more polished version. Larry is Google's Gates, but less ruthless.

Compare this to the current Google which is basically run by an ex-McKinsey type of person who has no idea about the technical side of things and will sell his mom for a buck (as evidenced by Dragonfly). Of all the possible choices they have somehow converged on the worst one. I'd argue Urs, even with his shortcomings, could make Google a far stronger company in the mid- to long term. Urs has as good a bullshit filter and ethics as I've ever seen in an SVP, and he's not "slimy". Again, Sundar was a crap choice. I mean, it didn't even have to be an engineer. Nikesh Arora (sales) was pretty outstanding as well. Clearly CEO material, clearly one of the very best in his field, he had the internal respect. We will never know for sure, but he probably was angling for the CEO spot as well. And he'd be a better choice as a strong business leader. He left in 2014, shortly before Sundar took over.

> Urs has as good a bullshit filter and ethics as I've ever seen in an SVP, and he's not "slimy"

That's precisely why he's not CEO material (for that matter, this is why Larry was a shitty CEO as well). Being CEO of a large multinational requires an amount of dissembling and two-faced-ness that few engineers (and certainly not engineers with integrity) are comfortable with. You're trying to balance the interests of literally billions of people, many of whose interest are not aligned, many of whom have widely disparate power levels, and some of whom are driven by cutthroat ambitious egos who would promptly chop your head off if you let them. If any one of those groups had a true picture of what the other parts of the system really thought of them, they would promptly cease to do business with them (at best) or erupt in outright warfare (at worst). Thus, it requires telling a different set of truths to each group, based on what they want to hear, and hoping that they never compare notes.

When they do compare notes, you get news stories like Project Maven, Project Dragonfly, the compensation memo, and so on.

>> requires an amount of dissembling and two-faced-ness

Strongly disagree. Also disagree that Larry was a shitty CEO.

>He is such a humble and kind guy while still being a nerd, one of us.

Yes, but I'm only half joking when I say that that's how all the pod people make you feel. In fact the people who I would consider the most through and through "one of us" are often off-putting and completely antisocial by nature, not even by choice. I think that's the difference between being naturally reality-focused or people-focused.

On one hand you need a tribal one of us and it's highly social within that group.

It is a paradox that Google who boasts themselves to be very technical, gave CEO job to someone who was never software engineeer or written single line of code. His path to fame initially was product management of IE plugin. Smart enough to suck up to founders and give a perception of no threat to them, assured his path to the throne by kicking down others and grabbing successful projects from other leaders.

This is exactly what I thought when I saw that the guy that did those lame demos on ChromeOS during I/O had just became CEO. And my opinion hasn't changed since that, yes, he's a non-threatening kind of guy and for most that aligns with their shallow definition of nice, but other that this? From the outside I can't really see anything else (and so maybe I should keep my opinions to myself).

For the sake of the employees and for the sake of the rest of us, I believe that Sundar Pichai is not CEO material at all. He should go or be pushed out, and Larry Page and Sergei Brin (or one of them) should take a stronger role and have a deeper engagement on many matters. Google has been doing well financially, but it has lost its soul (the one it had in its very initial years) and seems to be going around aimlessly as far as doing good things and doing the right things are concerned.

Larry and Sergey have pretty much semi retired with about $50 billion each. Short of Alphabets share price plumetting, why would they come back now if they haven't already?

I dunno. I like Sundar. I like his straightforward style. Personally I think he's got it together a lot more than Larry and Sergey do. When Larry was the boss, I always felt like we were lurching. Sundar feels like high speed cruise.

Look this ship don't turn fast no matter who's at the helm. And it's not even clear it needs to. Maybe it's already sailing where Sundar wants it to (mad money + compelling products). As far as I can tell, public sentiment about Google is very different from tech/nerd sentiment about the same, and that's fine by me, because the public seems to like the company and its products. We are making money hand over fist with no end in sight. While our politics might not be progressive enough for the left fringe of Googlers (and I say this as a liberal myself), they are certainly not reactionary by any stretch.

I wouldn't expect a radical new idea to spring out of Google at any point in the future. It's too big for that. The folks with radical new ideas are working in their garages. And that's OK. Companies have life-cycles, like anything else, and Google-the-company is in the "mature adult" phase. It is refining and extending in the areas where it's strong. Occasionally it tries a new hobby, but it doesn't expect to make a career change. It can't. It likes its day job (the best damn information-seeking web properties on the planet), and even if it got pretty good at something else, it's hard to picture a scenario where the productivity of that alternative comes close to the main business.

I guess this is the long way of saying that I don't see why the investors would want Sundar out. I don't see why Larry or Sergey would. And I don't see why most employees would either. We're all getting rich and mostly being treated well, and building things that broadly speaking make the world a better and more productive place. Those are all the people that get a vote, so I wouldn't bet on Sundar going anywhere soon unless he wants to.

|and building things that broadly speaking make the world a better and more productive place.

I strongly disagree with this sentiment, ease up on the kool-aid. Productive, maybe? Better, hell no.

Oh, because you disagree, I'm drinking the koolaid? Grow up and realize that your perspective and priorities are not universal.

> Look this ship don't turn fast no matter who's at the helm. And it's not even clear it needs to.

Microsoft have proved several times that they can turn a supertanker on a pinhead. They embraced the internet even though it meant abandoning an extremely attractive dream in MSN. They've embraced cloud services, even though it means choking up their own rivers of gold to get to the next one.

It's not pretty, but it's possible.

>>Google has been doing well financially, but it has lost its soul

Google has been doing well financially, because it has lost its soul

Someone's salty. Do you work at Google?

I looked at the user's profile. It says: " I live in India. I'm anti-government control and against mass surveillance. "

Took a cursory look at his/her's other comments and spotted "Google, which doesn't respect users' choices in Android not to collect location data and yet the company wants others not to deal in that data from its other services"

78% approval ratings seem pretty high to me. Am I the only one who thinks we may be looking for a pattern where none exists? A lot of factors like market conditions, news cycle etc. could lead to +/-10% swing in what is such an unofficial metric to begin with.

Agreed! Is this normal for Google? +-10% every year? The change % doesn't give us a lot of insight...these numbers in total seem much higher than the company surveys I've seen results for.

Typical numbers when I was there were usually in the high-80s to mid-90s on most of the satisfaction questions. A drop of +-10% was absolutely considered significant, as were numbers in the 70s.

I once made an internal G+ post that "voluntary response data measures liquidity, not satisfaction". When you have an organization that people can freely choose to join or leave, then you should expect that any internal surveys will have very high satisfaction numbers - because anyone who is dissatisfied will simply leave and drop out of the sample. Similarly, if you get consistently low numbers for satisfaction, that could be because the people in the sample have low liquidity - they can't easily go elsewhere.

This is why organizations like Congress, Comcast, and Facebook (users, not employees) have such perpetually low approval ratings - for most people stuck with them, there are simply no alternatives, and so they remain beholden to their decisions despite hating them. And similarly, Google employees have very high satisfaction ratings because it's relatively easy to get a job elsewhere or just not need a job at all as a Xoogler, and so anyone who dislikes it just leaves.

Once upon a time, Google used to be run by engineer types.

When Larry and Sergey retired and handed the reins over to Sundar, a standard issue McKinsey drone whose technical contributions over the span of his entire career are close to nil, it was game over for the original Google culture.

In fact, there is a theory floating around that he was chosen because someone very smart at Google predicted the huge oncoming controversies around privacy, data collection, manipulative monopolistic practices, and how overly powerful Google was becoming in general.

Visionless, mild-mannered, bland, milquetoast, "we need to be incredibly thoughtful about this" Sundar was the perfect choice as a CEO to weather that particular storm, by staying under the radar as much as possible by projecting a "don't worry we're the good guys, see how inoffensive I am myself" image (as opposed to "I'm the CEO bitch" Zuck types).

Truth be told, the strategy has worked to a point: Google is in far less trouble than e.g. FB.

But there is a price to be paid by handing over the wheel to someone who was specifically chosen for how inoffensive and uninteresting he is.

I upvoted this comment as there's a lot of truth to that, plus its the only comment with the obligatory word "thoughtful" on this thread, but to be fair, to find the person who introduced "McKinsey drones" to Google, look no further than Eric Schmidt himself, under whom they spread, and he attributes the McKinsey invasion to Shona Brown.

Arguably they may have been key to scaling the company. We never know what the company would have been otherwise as we can't rewind the tape and change history. Could have been a lot more visionary and inspiring. Could have also been much smaller and narrower without Eric and McKinsey functions.

Fb is not in trouble, is it?

You are saying Pinchai is a bad CEO but he was picked because he is talented enough to handle the exploding time bomb created by the previous "good" CEOs?

Best fall guy not really most talented.

Google's Achilles heel is search and ad revenue (80%). Which is sad because they've been trying to diversify and find another major source of income for 20 years now. If a better search engine comes along and people switch over, then google won't be able to maintain its empire and it could fold, or how would you like to pay $10 a month for a GMail and Google Maps combo access package? It could happen a lot easier and quicker than most people think.

I’m aware this has become a cliche on HN, but I’d be happy to pay that—if it helped align incentives better. Maybe if a company as big and ad supported as Google would make that step, it could become more accepted to pay for software again?

I think they're a lot stronger than you think. True, Search and Ads is still their bread and butter, but:

Their search engine is really hard to replace, not just because of the quality, but also because of how ubiquitous it is.

YouTube is the second largest search engine on the planet and has the largest mindshare of any website on the internet.

Android is "the" platform pretty much everyone accesses the internet.

Cloud could do better (it's 3rd distant in the race against MSFT and AMZN), but nevertheless a huge opportunity.

Buffet and Munger were correct when they commented about Google saying they'd never seen a wider moat in their entire career.

> Their search engine is really hard to replace, not just because of the quality, but also because of how ubiquitous it is.

For the web, yes. I'd argue it's not threatened by other search engines, though it is threatened by other players and indexes:

- Apps. Google can't crawl apps, and people are getting used to the idea of finding information in separate indexes as opposed to a single universal one. Each app today has it's own search box, so if I'm looking for somewhere to eat I go to Yelp. A product? Amazon. If I'm looking for someone I open Facebook. If I'm looking for flights I open Kayak, Priceline or Expedia, etc).

> YouTube is the second largest search engine on the planet and has the largest mindshare of any website on the internet.

I agree that YouTube is very strong.

> Android is "the" platform pretty much everyone accesses the internet.

I disagree here. People largely access the internet (as in, data from the internet) through apps, like I mentioned before (Yelp, Facebook, Amazon, Kayak, Expedia...). [1]. Moreover, in terms of OSes, you still iOS and Windows are still holding steadily to a decent chunk of important markets.

> Cloud could do better (it's 3rd distant in the race against MSFT and AMZN), but nevertheless a huge opportunity.

I do agree here.

> Buffet and Munger were correct when they commented about Google saying they'd never seen a wider moat in their entire career.

+1 on some things, but not so much on others IMO. At this point most tech companies have comparable moats. Amazon, Facebook, Apple-- also huge moats.

And that's the thing-- competing against "just another search company" they're definitely in no threat, but they're competing against companies about as moated as they are. Amazon beat them to the punch with voice assistants. Apple Music is taking market share like Google Music couldn't. ChromeOS still can't seem to crack the dominance Microsoft Windows has on laptops. They're a lot stronger than most people think, but their competition is too.

[1]: Fun fact, people browse the web a lot while using Facebook. This is somewhat tangential to my main point so putting it down here, but Facebook is actually a major web browser: https://techcrunch.com/2018/08/06/facebook-is-now-a-major-mo...

I think you’re a more sophisticated user. Most people would just google something like best [type of food] restaurant in [city]. They’re not going to help specially for yelp stuff when it shows up on google anyways. If I want to find someone’s Facebook, I search for their name and Facebook on google.

Yelp is for sophisticated users?

Perhaps sophisticated was the wrong word, but a lot of people who will never use yelp use google daily. That is what I was trying to express.

I would agree with you on most points but their search engine is getting easier to replace as each change is made. The longtail is dead and someone new like amazon or sony or apple could change the game.

> Android is "the" platform pretty much everyone accesses the internet.

Not really. Windows still exists, as does iOS.

More people use mobile devices than desktops.

Anecdotally, there seems to be more stories of AWS->GCP than the other way around.

>>Their search engine is really hard to replace, not just because of the quality, but also because of how ubiquitous it is.

I'm not so sure about this. Bing is actually pretty good and in some aspects I find it superior. I like their video search better.

> If a better search engine comes along and people switch over

People are lazy. It's hard to deny that Bing and DDG are "better" in many ways, but how often does that matter? Most searches are simple and mindless - where any search provider will give you good results. Google has optimized for this use case.

> how would you like to pay $10 a month for a GMail and Google Maps combo access package?

Isn't $10/mo slightly above what Google Suite costs, per individual user? I would argue that it's already happening - if Google services are important enough to you that them denying you service would bring serious trouble, you need either Google Suite or to pay for a competitor - either way, providing them a meaningful incentive to keep you around. "Free" services are just not something you should ever rely on.

Same goes for other big service providers like Facebook, Twitter or Amazon's retail service, of course - if you can't even pay for meaningful support, you must have some sort of contingency plan and diversify the stuff you rely on. It didn't used to be like that, but Google and other big Internet properties have matured and lost a lot of their inherent "slack", even as our reliance on them may have increased - and that loss of slack could come back to bite you in the ass.

Google diversified its ads revenue, that is still something.

Yt, display, gmail, etc.

+mobile likely is huge (facebook has absolute majority of revenue from mobile ad). And now they push on shopping and maps.

does gmail actually make money?

i know the numbers, but can't tell.

Among the FAANGs (btw I think Microsoft deserves to be included there now) I find Google to be at the bottom in terms of vision. It's morphed into the conservative, big co they were once fighting. It's kind of sad.

Come on, Facebook's vision is Frindster but 15 years later and Netflix is literally putting TV on the Internet, a Silicon Valley (I mean the show) worthy description.

I'm pretty sure the only reason Netflix is in FAANG is to keep the acronym appropriate. (I'm not the first to make this observation either.)

Facebook is near the bottom with Google IMO. Netflix has totally flipped Hollywood and airing really interesting original content. That is something.

Google has totally flipped the internet. Or do you still know of a personal website that maintains a list of interesting links ordered by the topic?

They flipped it 20 years ago...talking about where these companies rank as far as current vision and innovation goes today in 2019.

They flipped it at least as early as 15 years ago in 2004 with with gmail, their acquisition of google maps, and in 2006 with their acquisition of youtube.

Actually I think you're basically right.

> They flipped it at least as early as 15 years ago in 2004 with with gmail, their acquisition of google maps, and in 2006 with their acquisition of youtube.

The only innovation among these was whatever youtube did to be allowed to host all the pirated content, as opposed to everyone else who tried it.

Android? Chrome?

Okay, fair points. 2007 and 2008 respectively. I'm not sure that changes much.

Facebook somehow has turned social into a giant. Forced real names and gave your grandmother a reason to be on the internet. Facebook will be the global free television network will push vr and start introducing telepatic phone services.

Netflix will probably split into two with one company showing new movies with different pricing models. The second service will have all of the original content they made throughout the years for a low price but lack studio productions. Not sure it will be as appealing unless they can find a way to strench a production budgets while keeping quality.

I think the OP's point was less what the companies have done in their lifetime than what they're doing now. Both Google and Facebook revolutionised the internet, but I'm really struggling to think of much that they've done recently. Google at least has the Android platform, and I suppose Google Home? Facebook just seems to have a trail of failed hardware projects and has bought success through billion dollar acquisitions

Instagram was not bought success. It was incredible execution and foresight on FB’s part. Remember that IG was only 10 people at the time, had less than 50mm users, and $0 in revenue when FB bought it.

Credit where credit is due. I don’t think IG would be where it is today without FB.

What they are missing is a marketing department and customer service division. Without those they are forced to operate like a bizaar and offer commodity style products/prices.

Having read the article, only 54% of Googlers view their compensation is better than what they could get from another company. I find it surprising. Who else pays more than Google does? Can only think of Facebook, but even then not sure.

I used to work at another BigCorp (around $150,000/yr) and really thought Google pays competitively, but boy was I wrong. Here are two offers that I received recently:

1. Small company: around $160,000/yr + equity

2. Google: no exact number but I was told that for the level I was approved, the base is around $120,000/yr. Apparently my coding skills on a Google doc were equivalent to that of a new grad and they are really trying to low-ball me. Somehow they are under the assumption that I'm "dying" to work there.

If you interview at Google make sure to have other competing offers, otherwise you'll be up for a surprise. Also remember that although they'll tell you that the hiring committee looks at a candidate holistically, only the onsite interviews will dictate your level and the compensation. They don't seem to care what products you've built previously, years of experience, or education. How you code in a Google doc is what seems to matter.

Is there a better way of making sure someone can actually code? It’s easy to take credit for past projects when it’s unclear how much help you had or what part you played. Isn’t the best way to judge a candidate asking them to create/produce something for you?

IMHO a better way would be:

- A non-trivial take-home exercise and give them a week or two to complete. This should have higher weight on the decision instead of the "Google doc coding" as most likely that's the type of code they'll be shipping to production.

- Use the onsite interviews to improve upon the exercise and/or to get into the nitty gritty details, and also to make sure this is the type of person people would enjoy working with.

- Allow candidates to run the code and to look things up (even Einstein didn't remember how to do long division, he looked it up).

- Give people the benefit of the doubt and assume they are not liars or thieves. If you end up having certain doubts, ask yourself why you have those doubts and take appropriate steps to remove doubts.

And let's be real. Do you think someone with X years of experience having worked at multiple companies (small and big corps) was hired because they couldn't code?

> even Einstein didn't remember how to do long division, he looked it up

Nitpick: the idea that Einstein struggled with school-level mathematics is a myth[1]. I would be very surprised if he ever had to look up the procedure for long division.

[1] http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,288...

I personally hate take home tests that you aren’t compensated for, but I see your point. As to your last point, depends on your definition of “couldn’t code”. I think we tend to give the hiring and HR at companies like google too much credit. Things still slip through the cracks, especially at an organization of that size.

One thing I do with take-home exercises after I'm done interviewing with a company is adapting them and then open-sourcing them (obviously removing identifying information about the company). This has really helped me and I have more side projects to show later on. With that said, I've gone above and beyond with the implementation of these exercises so typically many of them are worth open-sourcing.

Great Point. This is the right approach,as I have come to realize.

People can cheat on take home exercises. At the scale of google, a nontrivial number of people will.

If you'll end up having to do a face to face analysis to make sure someone didn't cheat on a big take home assignment like that, why not just skip to the face to face analysis?

I mean, you're neglecting to mention Google's equity, which would at a minimum bring the compensation in line with the other company.

I think it's more a reflection of thinking that if a lot of employees complain that they're not paid well, maybe the company will increase their salaries in response. But there's no potential benefit at all to claiming that the pay is good (regardless of whether it is or not).

Even if they were paid better than everyone, seems like on an anonymous survey there is no downside in saying you are underpaid.

Netflix (which from my understanding just pays very high salaries but minimal stock or stock you buy at discount)? also a lot of people that are boasting of high comp have high comp because the value of the stock they were initially granted increased over time with rising stock prices. Will be very very curious to see how total comp numbers trend during a recession.

Lot of SV based companies compensate quite generously. The competition for good talent in SV is immense. When there's money on the table, companies _will_ fork it up.

Netflix, or Amazon if you're really top-tier, maybe LinkedIn or Apple (counting RSU packages). There are a good handful of companies that are offering sky high comp right now.

Even if Google has the highest medium/average salary (which is so not true), still not necessarily means other companies won't pay much higher to an individual. The facts that so many "former Google employees" out there and people left Google in like 4 years on average also hint it. As many people already indicated, even not FAANG, many smaller companies are generous.

Salesforce pays me much more than what Google talked to me about, So this isn't true. MSFT also was pretty close the SF offer for me as well. I also have friends at Netflix and they make much more than what Google offered them. I'm in Security so it may be different for Devs.

I think Netflix does and I believe it’s all cash unlike the cash/stock split that google does. I got that from levels.fyi so not sure how accurate the information is.

My manager left Google for Netflix a few months ago and said he got to pick the mix of cash vs stock he received when joining Netflix.

Netflix lays out the details at: https://benefits.netflix.com/united-states/financial

Many smaller companies do. If you can lead and multiply the existing staff you can earn more. The downside is that you have limited runway and might have to hop around.

LinkedIn, Netflix. Also if you evaluate stock reasonably, AirBnB, Lyft, Pinterest.

Trading companies do.

Amazon does if you get upleveled and negotiate.

Amazon definitely doesn't.

I know people that have gotten equivalent offers.

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