Ex-Google Engineer Slams Former Employer On Microsoft Blog

Just one day before a Goldman Sachs executive resigned by skewering the firm in an op-ed, a former Google engineer offered his own very public critique of his former employer. Now at Microsoft, James Whittaker wrote on the company blog that Google went from an "innovation factory" to "an advertising company," which was jealously obsessed with competing with Facebook.

Whittaker, who left Microsoft to join Google in 2009, claims that he drank the Kool-Aid at the beginning, and eagerly fed it to the other engineers he was tasked with recruiting. "No one had to ask me twice to promote Google," he writes, "and no one was more surprised than me when I could no longer do so."

It's an uncanny echo of the ex-Goldman Sachs employee's lament: "I realized I could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work."

Over time, Whittaker claims that Google became fixated on its failure to create a successful social media platform. Google Wave and Google Buzz flopped in succession, and Orkut "never caught on outside Brazil." While a big brand like Nike is happy to put itself behind Facebook on its page Facebook.com/nike, "no company has ever done that for Google," he says, "and Google took it personally."

Whittaker was a development director for Google+, and says the company was single-minded about the product, forcing all innovation to place it "at the center of the universe," and ignoring the fact that it was failing to gain real traction.

"Google was the rich kid who, after having discovered he wasn't invited to the party, built his own party in retaliation," he writes. "The fact that no one came to Google's party became the elephant in the room."

In the process, the company went from an advertising company only "in the sense that a good TV show is an ad company," he writes, to a company that "seems more focused on the commercials themselves."

Whittaker's withering critique has hardly caused a stir with the public, however. At least compared to the storm of response to ex-Goldman Sachs employee Greg Smith. Perhaps because Smith's criticism -- that Goldman has become poisoned by greed -- taps into a much larger conversation about Wall Street ethics, and the "One Percent's" disdain for the little guy.

Google, on the other hand, is still making products millions use and love everyday, has a bunch of positive cache with the public, and wasn't in any way implicated in the financial meltdown that has left so many Americans jobless and broke.

The idea that Google's culture has become more corporate also isn't new, and has largely been seen as inevitable for a company that now boasts over 30,000 employees. And it's no secret that Google+ is something of a ghost town. Last October, another Google engineer wrote a very similar critique, calling the product "a knee-jerk reaction, a study in short-term thinking," which he accidentally sent to his public Google+ account.

The fact that Whittaker defected to Microsoft, and posted these digs on its blog, might seem like a score for Google's longtime rival, which as CNNMoney reported, publicly criticized the company last month. But maybe it's not such a clear-cut victory.

"And you came to Microsoft?" ask some commenters incredulously, calling the company "the graveyard of creativity" and "not exactly the poster child of do-no-evil either."



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writerjudy

Interesting.

March 19 2012 at 11:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
gdritawil

The difference is clear to me, if not to the rest of us.....Facebook was created as purely a way for people to connect, with no pretense of being a platform for advertisers, or corporate America to pander their wares, whereas, Google solicited the mega giants immediately....people are just tired of all the hype, and sometimes just want to be people without the irritation of advertisements.

March 17 2012 at 10:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
adika3z

why gooogle is part of ussr russia,
why why

March 17 2012 at 12:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Myloth

Innovations what innovations? All Google ever did was steal other peoples ideas and incorporate them and brand them Google bah!

March 17 2012 at 12:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
SMontano

This is all surprising to me, I use to think Google was THE company to work for and at times I was sorry I got my degree in manufacturing engineering instead of software.

March 16 2012 at 11:55 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
linda

That article seemed awkward to read and it was very difficult to follow... I feel as if she just clicked the synonym list on random words and chose the longest alternative available without regards it would fit into the sentence... I used to do it in some of my college classes before one of my professors called me out on it three weeks into my first semester.

March 16 2012 at 11:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
raidbug

If Google wants to make a change, hat they need to do & thats finish what they started doing back in 2006/2007 ... Google Auctions. Ebay has gotten too big for it own good. Couple that with making everyone use PayPal (which they own) they get to keep almost 20% of all sales.

In the early days, it would only cost ya' 5%

March 16 2012 at 11:34 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to raidbug's comment
kim

Not only do they own PayPal, but apparently they have put a lifetime spending limit on consumers(not per purchase). Unless, of course, you get "their" credit card, then you can spend all you want.

March 17 2012 at 12:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Linda

What exactly is it that creeps him out?

March 16 2012 at 10:45 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Linda's comment
bpitre7500

I was reading through these comments to see if anyone else picked up on that! I guess it was to be implied that he was not fond of the commercialization of the company now, but if that is it, it is very vague.

March 17 2012 at 12:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
budwsr25

Im sick of all these ads on everything. Ads are what is making facebook rich. They are only going to get worse with the IPO starts. Taking facebook public is going to kill facebook,

March 16 2012 at 10:28 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
boots

I read the article like three times and still couldn't figure out what "creeps him out"

March 16 2012 at 10:25 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to boots's comment
Jennifer B

Same here. The article is not a good read.

March 17 2012 at 12:11 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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