Google Engineer: Google+ a "Knee-Jerk Reaction"

Walter Barrios vs Vaz Lep Just as Google+ seemed to be picking up, with Larry Page celebrating its landmark 40 million users Steve Yegge, one of Google’s engineers posted a rant denouncing it.

It’s fair to mention that Yegge didn’t just lambast Google, but began painting the big tech. failure backdrop by slamming his former employer, Amazon, for numerous shortcomings, among his other inchoate diatribes. After miles down the page, Yegge finally begins digging his talons into Google+:

A product is useless without a platform, or more precisely and accurately, a platform-less product will always be replaced by an equivalent platform-ized product. Google+ is a prime example of our complete failure to understand platforms from the very highest levels of executive leadership (hi Larry, Sergey, Eric, Vic, howdy howdy) down to the very lowest leaf workers (hey yo). We all don’t get it. The Golden Rule of platforms is that you Eat Your Own Dogfood. The Google+ platform is a pathetic afterthought. We had no API at all at launch, and last I checked, we had one measly API call.

What’s more, he doesn’t stop there:

Google+ is a knee-jerk reaction, a study in short-term thinking, predicated on the incorrect notion that Facebook is successful because they built a great product. But that’s not why they are successful. Facebook is successful because they built an entire constellation of products by allowing other people to do the work. So Facebook is different for everyone. Some people spend all their time on Mafia Wars. Some spend all their time on Farmville. There are hundreds or maybe thousands of different high-quality time sinks available, so there’s something there for everyone. Our Google+ team took a look at the aftermarket and said: “Gosh, it looks like we need some games. Let’s go contract someone to, um, write some games for us.” Do you begin to see how incredibly wrong that thinking is now? The problem is that we are trying to predict what people want and deliver it for them. You can’t do that. Not really. Not reliably. There have been precious few people in the world, over the entire history of computing, who have been able to do it reliably. Steve Jobs was one of them. We don’t have a Steve Jobs here. I’m sorry, but we don’t.

We would like to point out one thing before anyone jumps to conclusions: Yegge posted his differences, not on Facebook or Twitter, but squarely on Google+.  In fact, Mashable reported that he never intended to make his 5,000 word malediction public in the first place. Even with the damage done,Yegge (weakly) reassures that he still believes in Google:

Facebook gets it. That’s what really worries me. That’s what got me off my lazy butt to write this thing. I hate blogging. I hate… plussing, or whatever it’s called when you do a massive rant in Google+ even though it’s a terrible venue for it but you do it anyway because in the end you really do want Google to be successful. And I do! I mean, Facebook wants me there, and it’d be pretty easy to just go. But Google is home, so I’m insisting that we have this little family intervention, uncomfortable as it might be.

When Google+ first launched we published a blog titled, “To the Social Media critic, has Google’s + Project already failed?” After reading Yegge’s tirade over Google+, would anyone out there still believe it’s headed for greatness like Facebook and Twitter, or is it doomed to the platform junkyard with the likes of Google Buzz and Google Wave?

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5 Responses to “Google Engineer: Google+ a "Knee-Jerk Reaction"”

  1. Google+ had better discover that thing it has that Facebook can’t have (and not just that Facebook doesn’t YET have) and put it out there for us fast! Loyalty to Google+ from the Google enthusiasts does not equal long term success. In the end, even the loyalists will be forced to return to Facebook unless some inner need we didn’t realize we had is met in full. Chris Brogran (columnist for Entrepreneur Magazine among other things) spoke at the Boston Inbound Marketing Summit about Google +. His aim was to explain how great it would be for businesses to get on the Google+ bandwagon; in the end, he merely informed us that Google + is just “Facebook without the blue at the top.”

    • Jonathan Poston

      Christy: Excellent point about Google+ needing to carve out a distinct competitive advantage. There will always be early adopters who will at least try out the newest gadgets and tools (along with brand diehard loyals), but it’s going to take a lot more innovation than what Google+ offers to woo the average crowd…or they’ll never budge from social media networks, like FB & Twitter, that took years to build. Really. Who in their right mind would invite 500 or 2000 friends over to an unproven and new social network like Google+, only to have them pull the plug a year or so later.

  2. Ok, so Google took it on the chin a bit but I think it’s healthy and I hope they make lemonade out of it. It is not a surprise that G+ needs further improvements. I prefer to have a healthy competition with FB. Remember they were not the original platform to Social Media. Gee, what was that other one? Starts with an M? Oh yeah, MySpace. Remember them? The net is always evolving. That’s a good thing.

    • Jonathan Poston

      Agnes: You’re definitely right about competition being healthy, or as you said we would all still be stuck with MySpace–and no one wants to get bogged down with a platform that stops trailblazing. With Facebook, et. al. still evolving, and Google coming into the space with little more what was already out there, it’s arrogant to believe that brand persuasion alone will propel them beyond well-established competition. Perhaps now, with its engineers taking umbrage to the long line of failed “social” products, someone will wake up over there.

  3. Facebook is successful because, in part, it found a niche: college students disaffected with the increasing juvenility of MySpace who wanted some place that they could strut their nascent sophistication. The exclusivity that surrounded early Facebook membership obviously led to more of us wanting to be let in. Thus a market was born. Google’s problem is that they’re just too “me too” and not enough “who’s the disaffected market now and how do we serve them?” That’s a hard game to play but one they pretty darn well when they deposed Yahoo from the search throne by offering unbiased, fast and accurate search in a clean to the point of spartan interface.


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