James Whittaker, Microsoft's Partner Development Manager, used to be the Engineering Director at Google. He revealed why he left the search engine giant in a lengthy blog post on Tuesday -- or as he calls it, a "more personal telling" -- saying that Google's co-founder and current CEO Larry Page ruined the company.
"The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate," he states. "The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus."
His vision of Google sounds like your typical fantasy setting where the land becomes corrupted by a new, power-hungry king. In the sunny days when Eric Schmidt ruled the land of Google, his people were free to innovate, powered by the funds generated from advertising. They didn't have to be a part of the Inner Circle to succeed -- they just needed the skills and the ideas. Forums like App Engine, Google Labs and open source served as staging grounds for their inventions. Strategically important products like Gmail and Chrome sprouted from their collective efforts. For a while, all was good in the land of Google.
But then a great shadow began to cast down over the land, so Whittaker's tale goes. As Google attempted to tackle the social scene with Google Buzz (its answer to Twitter) and Google Wave, the company began to feel the threat of an ominous Facebook giant, and feared for its front runner status in online advertisement. Google could still conjure up more ads than Facebook, but Facebook knew more about its followers, a lucrative trait that hungry advertisers and publishers found highly attractive.
"Advertisers and publishers cherish this kind of personal information, so much so that they are willing to put the Facebook brand before their own," he writes. "Exhibit A: www.facebook.com/nike, a company with the power and clout of Nike putting their own brand after Facebook’s? No company has ever done that for Google and Google took it personally."
So what does all of this have to do with Whittaker leaving Google? It starts with Larry Page taking the throne as Facebook's threat grew stronger. His weapon at hand would be a two-handed broadsword enhanced with +1 Social Power. Suddenly everything about Google had to be social, from search results to YouTube, to Android, to innovation. "Social became state-owned, a corporate mandate called Google+," Whittaker says, adding that it was an ominous name invoking the feeling that Google alone wasn't enough.
Whittaker now calls the land in which Larry Page reigns as "New Google." It's a different place now that everyone is up in arms. 20-percent is no longer acceptable. Google Labs has been shut down. App Engine fees have been raised. APIs that had been free for years have been deprecated or provided for a fee. The days of old Google hiring smart people and empowering them to invent the future are now gone. Under the new rule, it's seemingly all about social and conquering the Facebook giant.
"The new Google knew beyond doubt what the future should look like. Employees had gotten it wrong and corporate intervention would set it right again," he writes.
He goes on to say that Google officially declared that sharing on the internet was broken, and that Google+ would fix that. Turns out that sharing on the Internet wasn't broken at all. Sharing was working just fine -- Google just wasn't a part of it.
"You have to admire a company willing to sacrifice sacred cows and rally its talent behind a threat to its business," he writes. "Had Google been right, the effort would have been heroic and clearly many of us wanted to be part of that outcome. I bought into it. I worked on Google+ as a development director and shipped a bunch of code. But the world never changed; sharing never changed. It’s arguable that we made Facebook better, but all I had to show for it was higher review scores."
For Whittaker, his happy ending to the tale was to leave Google and head over to the land of Microsoft, taking on the role of Partner Development Manager. The rest of his story can be read here.