(Ironically, there have been so many other articles titled "Why I left Google" on HN that I can't actually find this one in the archives. But it's there :)
> The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus.
I'd basically written that off a year ago as unfair, maybe someone with "everything used to be better" bias. Seeing it again in right after the Reader shutdown, it shifted my thinking a bit.
I know this hasn't really snuck up on many other people, there've been other great product deaths, and Google sells a lot of ads, but seeing this again, it just nudged me to consciously reevaluate it all...
Now, it's perfectly valid -- maybe even necessary -- to look at Google's situation and declare it highly vulnerable. Any company that relies to such a singular extent on one product is in a precarious situation, because any fundamental disruption of that one product's market will sink the entire ship. Historically, Google had attempted to future-proof itself by functioning like an AdWords-subsidized R&D lab: using its massive and easy profits to pay for all sorts of cool, out-there, innovative technologies. But over the years, none of these technologies was proving itself commercially viable in a meaningful way. So Google could be forgiven for shifting to address the threat of social in general, and Facebook in particular, to its core advertising business.
To put it another way: when Google had no meaningful competitors, it could afford to play around with its money. When a serious competitor finally emerged, Google decided to put the toys away and focus.
It's easy to apply 20/20 hindsight and say that Google+ was never going to be the answer. But that wasn't always obvious. In fact, I remember when Google+ was first running its invite-only beta, and the HN community was singing its praises. And to this day, social integration with search seems like a good idea. Google may (or may not) be too late to own social search, but it wasn't fundamentally wrong about realizing that social was a paradigm-shift in web behavior, and not simply a passing fad.
Now, I can't speak to the author's complaints about the company culture. I have never worked at Google. If, as the author says, the company has stifled its atmosphere of innovation and creativity, that is a damned shame. (But I'd like to see more evidence to support this theory). The idea of forward-thinking R&D (20% time, etc.) seems like it should still be a core part of Google's culture -- especially for the sake of fostering a highly productive and innovative environment.
But it seems too easy to look back at Google+ and say that Google had fundamentally lost its way. From the standpoint of Google in 2010-11, Facebook was the first serious, potentially existential threat the company had ever faced. In a way, it would have been irresponsible for Google not to have put a lot of eggs in the social basket.
In fact, if you're looking for hindsight vs reality, I don't think Google and Facebook really were competitors -- until Google decided to build a copy of Facebook's product. So what if both sites were monetized with ads, whoop-dee-doo. The overlap in their product functionality and expertise was basically zero. There's a very abstract connection that comes out of Google's central dogma: We are how people find things on the Internet. We are how they discover links. We're their homepage. What if Facebook takes all of that away? We have to eat their lunch.
Google acted out of some combination of fear, insecurity, and pressure from Wall Street, along with some grandiose thinking about their role in the universe and the threat of Facebook. I believe the changes inside Google are significant, and also not inevitable or "what anyone would have done at the time." We'll see how the effects play out.
Respectfully, I think you're putting the cart before the horse. Google saw Facebook as a potential identity platform and de facto backend for the entire web. It might have been paranoid in its assumptions of just how much of Google's lunch Facebook could have eaten -- but the move into social was very much a defensive move, not an offensive one. They weren't trying to eat Facebook's lunch; they were trying not to get theirs eaten.
It's (still) not a stretch to think that advertisers would transfer dollars on a zero-sum basis from AdSense to a Facebook-credentialed web. As for AdWords? That's a harder lunch for Facebook to steal, but it's not inconceivable.
"Google acted out of some combination of fear, insecurity..."
Smart companies should be afraid and insecure, to some degree, about potential competition. I highly recommend Andy Grove's excellent book "Only the Paranoid Survive."
"...pressure from Wall Street..."
Just the opposite. Wall Street wanted Google to keep milking the cash cow and trying to expand its market share overseas -- which is a pretty typical Wall Street-pleasing playbook. Wall Street likes steady expansion of existing markets; Wall Street hates big bets in unproven products or markets.
I realize this is what Google felt, and what also seems to be accepted wisdom in the Valley, but I just don't get the logic that leads to cloning Facebook.
I do sometimes forget the whole thing about how the "advertisers (not the users) are the customer," so maybe I was wrong that they weren't competitive from that point of view.
Are we approaching a world where Google, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft each have their own phone, tablet, set-top box, search engine, email service, maps service, login, and "universal identity" for the web? Why does every tech company past a certain size need one of all of these things to be "competitive"?
Google execs were always in search of the "next billion-dollar product," so their stock would keep going up, so their employees' options would go up. It's a direct consequence of the mindset that company health equals X% growth that if you are taking over the planet in one category, you have to take over the planet in another category before long or be declared a failing company. Companies like Google try to shape the numbers as best they can to tell the story Wall Street wants to hear, but it's difficult and in the long run leads to extreme contortions.
Instead, they've been very forceful with their attempts to bring people in (Google+ is a great example), and that's clearly not working. It's bad enough that people scrutinize their every move (evil, too much data, etc), but to make matters worse, Google then starts acting like a used car salesman.
It really is a shame.
ironically, you just described their first and main product.
Perhaps it's not so easy to do the same with social.
(Not saying that forcing people to convert is not a good move)
Totally agree that a company should never be in that situation to begin with (hence, my comments about the vulnerability of depending for 97+% of revenues on a single product). But they made a bet on social to be their "next thing" and, in retrospect, many smart people probably would have made the same bet. The bet didn't pay off, per se, but that may have been a function of lateness to market more than a function of strategic unsoundness. (And let's give them at least some credit: Google+ had a unique thesis about social w/r/t groups, and it came to market with a differentiating factor from Facebook. It was not simply the me-too product everyone retrospectively labels it as).
I'm not writing an apology for Google's strategy; I'm just saying that hindsight is 20/20 in this case, and we shouldn't lose sight of that.
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3700277 was the previous discussion (910 upvotes, 370 days ago)
"I was trying to locate the discussion on it.. obviously the url regex ain't working for this corner-case"
I copy-pasted the url in the box. There are a few results:
Can private companies with less capital win this game and stay relevant in the long term?
The nature of VC or anyone investing OPM requires a short horizon. When it's your own money you don't ever have to cash out.
I was reading about Ford Thunderbird recently - the car that "created the market niche", was a huge success, rose Ford brand to a new level etc., and oops, the project was closed by board and reopened only after huge fight by Henry Ford II.
Especially fun in combination with a hostile takeover and the ensuing strip mining expedition.
Anyone who licenses software from Microsoft knows that lately their most important objective is increasing licensing revenues.
Changing products to increase licensing or changing them to enhance a different revenue stream is six of one, half a dozen of the other for me.
I'm not a big fan of either Google or Microsoft, so I don't really care about what they say. It's just that these "why I quit" letters have become boilerplate PR pieces that don't really offer anything new or interesting.
Do you really think Sergey Brin or Larry Page or Eric Schmidt are going to read this and think "oh man, we better change what we're doing".
People who are fans of MS are going to read it and say "yeah, see, I told you google is evil. Even his 15 year old daughter had a poignant critique of Google+ that shows she's not only wise beyond her years, but that Google+ sucks just like I always thought already."
It just doesn't sound genuine.
Of course, when leaving Google for Microsoft, it's hard to claim that culture/mission/vision are really the reason for leaving, as opposed to: MSFT offered $X,000, and GOOG managers said "you're not worth that to us"
They probably genuinely believe what they write though, at least on some level. You'd have to, or go mad.
EDIT: I also feel mild antipathy towards both parties.
Still no answer from the guy.
EDIT: Downvoters, I don't see how this is wrong. Microsoft has a long history of spreading FUD about competitors (Florian Mueller/FOSSPatents, http://www.scroogled.com/ [when their own practices are very much the same], sponsoring fake studies that show that the TCO of Linux is much greater than that of Windows, and so on.) I certainly would be interested in an unbiased opinion on the topic, but I don't think anyone on Microsoft's payroll can give me that.
There's not much excuse for not reading things and then complaining about them.
Just like this particular post, which regardless of the author's ulterior motives is factually accurate.
He was offered a Partner position at Microsoft. That's why he left. No need to philosophize about corporate culture here.
"You want to innovate in mobile? ...deal with the made men who run the relevant cartel. And if they don't like you or your idea, your innovation goes nowhere."
"sponsored suggestion to “Buy a restaurants are nearby at Wal-Mart.”"
EDIT: I guess it's worth pointing out, however, that Google Now doesn't show ads.
Word of mouth is considered the best form of advertising you can get. Almost 100% of the time it's not even paid for.
With iPad, for example, it was very clearly positioned as a media consumption device from the very beginning.
With Google Glass, potential customers are being asked to brainstorm what they would do if they had Glass.
Does not seem particularly innovative to me.
To continue indexing and searching Google has to make money. The most obvious path to billions is leveraging the indexing and searching into ad revenue.
What makes me more nervous than Google being capitalistic is Google not having boundaries about who/what/when/where/how they will index the whole world's data.
I have no idea what his second article about Microsoft and the mobile space is getting at. Look, if you think g+ is failing, what makes you think Microsoft is going to suddenly own the mobile space? I interviewed at a place in Seattle about 7 years ago that was doing Windows phone stuff, and again at MSFT at a different point for the windows mobile team as an embedded SWE. Microsoft has been in the mobile space forever, yet he's saying they are the innovative company capable to turning on a dime and taking over a new space? I don't believe it.
My wife has a windows phone, I don't like it, she hates the Bing search. I just bought a nexus 4 to replace my G2 because I want software updates for a long time. My wife is probably moving to an iPhone or Nexus. Last I looked gmail supports imap, you don't have to view ads. I only see ads on my nexus when I use google services, they don't flash up on my screen randomly.
I work on security for Windows, but for my own personal use, I just bought an ARM chromebook. It's a great price, despite the 'secure bootloader', it took me about 5 minutes to get the Ubuntu install started on an SD card, and if I screw up the recovery is drop dead simple. Right now, we are sweating bullets because if we make a mistake on Win8 boot, we are going to hose up the machine and recovery is long and painful.
Google has plenty of problems, and sure if you ask me, Google+ has a terrible interface and shipping it without a good API was brain dead, but Microsoft sure doesn't seem to be setting the mobile world on fire.
So I'd take this and many articles like it with a giant cake of salt.
"Share this on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Delicious, Reddit, LinkedIn, SlashDot, Myspace, Technorati, Friendfeed, Messenger, or Stumbleupon."
They seem to be pretty consistent: "sharing is not broken - here are some the places that people are already sharing stuff without Google's involvement".
You can test them out in their browser apps:
As a lot of these indicate, one of Google's chief contributions in recent memory is helping to make computing cheap, ubiquitous and decidedly not monopolized by Microsoft. In the blink of an eye, we've gone from a world where everything the average person owns that can install software runs on Windows to a world where more like 1/3 (and shrinking) of a household's computing devices run Windows. And in 2013, Chromebooks and Steamboxes look like they could displace a lot more of MS's presence.
There's a conflict of interest here. Even if their game is more complex than Coke vs Pepsi, these are very direct competitors. An ambitious Microsoftie has something to gain in a coy, well written put down that conveniently ignores the competition's bigger recent achievements.
I don't care if it's just optics; having a post about this on your current employers blog platform makes me highly suspicions, no matter how many people share his opinion
TLDR Eric was a peacetime CEO and could allow the company to do the things he allowed. Larry is a wartime CEO. Hard decisions need to be made, and the company needs to be driven with focus.
It is the power of huge money, monopoly and over confidence.
(nice writeup, as it mirrors the feelings many of my google friends feel)
He's done a few books, including one he co-authored called How Google Tests Software, which is a fairly pragmatic discussion of large-scale testing practices at Google. (I'm not sure if this is still the case, but Nooglers used to read this book as a part of their orientation.)
- Jeff Hammerbacher, Facebook
And this guy has evil written all over him. He worked at Microsoft for 3 years prior to joining Google. He is now back working for Microsoft. Blogging on msdn.com.
Can you explain what about him makes him "evil"?