The Internet went a flutter earlier this year with the release of Google+, the search giant’s highly touted attempt to become the king of social networks.
Months later with the platform practically forgotten, a developer there has used that very service to discredit the flop.
In a post published this week on his own Google+ account, Google engineer Steve Yegge wrote of the company’s
“complete failure to understand platforms”
and instead of applauding his employers, praised Facebook instead for succeeding in the endeavors that Google couldn’t grasp.
It would be incorrect to attest that “Facebook is successful because they built a great product,” writes Yegge. Rather, he adds, “Facebook is successful because they built an entire constellation of products by allowing other people to do the work.” Google+, he insists, was “a knee-jerk reaction” and “a study in short-term thinking” that was made to capitalize on Facebook’s model of being simply a great product—which Yegge says wasn’t the case.
“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,’” says Yegge. “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.”
Yegge adds, “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.”
In all, Yegge’s dangerously wordy diatribe clocked-in at around 4,700 words.
In the hours after he posted his rant on his Google+ page, Yegge received hundreds of comments and thousands of supportive “plus ones” from his followers. The next day, however, he was eating his words and gagging on his earlier Google digs.
It’s fair to say it could be considered groveling.
“Please realize, though, that even now, after six years, I know astoundingly little about Google,” Yegge follows up. “It’s a huge company and they do tons of stuff, and I work off in a little corner of the company (both technically and geographically) that gives me very little insight into anything else going on there. So my opinions, even though they may seem well-formed and accurate, really are just a bunch of opinions from someone who’s nowhere near the center of the action – so I wouldn’t read too much into anything I said.”
That’s okay, Yegge. I don’t think many people read that deeply into your manifesto given its Tolstoy-worthy length, and for your sake we hope that none of your bosses got too deep into it either.