Google engineer: 'We don’t get platforms;' G+ 'pathetic'

Brutally candid manifesto accidently made public

Google engineer Steve Yegge, right, meant for his here's-what's-wrong-with-Google manifesto to be a "little family intervention" read by the 20,000 Googler's present on Google+.

Instead, well, think "reply all." Yegge's rant was not only made visible to the entire Google+ social network, but has since gone viral and would soon be on Amazon's best-seller list  if not for the fact that Yegge also trashes Amazon, his former employer, as well as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Those who are characterizing the memo as a condemnation of Google+ are reading it far too narrowly, in my view, because it is Google's core corporate culture, in general, and Google management, in particular, that absorb the most - well, you might call it punishment but it's really tough love. Because what makes the paper such a compelling and convincing read is that it doesn't at all come across as sour grapes or vindictive; on the contrary, Yegge clearly thinks the world of his "family" and wants only that it function better.  

Yegge removed the post from his Google+ account shortly after realizing that he had made it public. A full copy of it lives here for now, although the owner of that account says he "stand(s) ready to remove it if asked."

A few excerpts:

We don't understand platforms. We don't "get" platforms. Some of you do, but you are the minority. This has become painfully clear to me over the past six years. I was kind of hoping that competitive pressure from Microsoft and Amazon and more recently Facebook would make us wake up collectively and start doing universal services. Not in some sort of ad-hoc, half-assed way, but in more or less the same way Amazon did it: all at once, for real, no cheating, and treating it as our top priority from now on. ...

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. ....

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. ...

And also don't get me wrong about Google+. They're far from the only offenders. This is a cultural thing. What we have going on internally is basically a war, with the underdog minority Platformers fighting a more or less losing battle against the Mighty Funded Confident Producters.

Any teams that have successfully internalized the notion that they should be externally programmable platforms from the ground up are underdogs -- Maps and Docs come to mind, and I know GMail is making overtures in that direction. But it's hard for them to get funding for it because it's not part of our culture.

While it's been six-plus years since Yegge left Amazon to join Google, his colorful skewering of his former employer dominates the top half of his rant, highlighted by his contention that Bezos "makes ordinary control freaks look like stoned hippies."

This morning Yegge offered another post on Google+ in which he attempted to both clarify what had happened and downplay any perceived significance:

I know astoundingly little about Google. 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.

It may be too late for that.

Welcome regulars and passersby. Here are a few more recent buzzblog items. And, if you’d like to receive Buzzblog via e-mail newsletter, here’s where to sign up. Follow me on Twitter here and on Google+ here.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Take IDG’s 2020 IT Salary Survey: You’ll provide important data and have a chance to win $500.