Google engineer: Google+ is ‘a pathetic afterthought’

steve_yegge-Google+Google engineer and well-known blogger Steve Yegge last night published a poignant 4,550-word rant lambasting his employer for mishandling Google+ (and a variety of other things, as well). Thing is, the epic screed, which was actually published on Google+, was only meant to be seen by other Google employees, but Yegge forgot to disable the “public” sharing option, and released it for everyone to see. (Face, meet palm.) He later deleted the post, but it has been re-published, with permission from Yegge, here.

While the first chunk of the rant focuses on how Amazon (where Yegge worked for six years) became the platform powerhouse that it is today, the primary gist of Yegge’s well-written and informative manifesto is that Google+ will not succeed because it is not a platform for which third-party developers can create products; it’s simply the product itself.

It is because Facebook is that kind of platform that has helped make it so successful; Facebook got a bunch of other people to think of good ideas, do the hard programming work, and implement them in the site. Google, on the other hand, is trying to control every aspect of Google+, and that will be what kills the company’s first sudo-successful attempt at social networking

We highly recommend reading through the full post, but here are the most damning bits, in case you’re short for time:

  • “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.”
  • “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.”
  • “Amazon gets it. Amazon’s AWS (aws.amazon.com) is incredible. Just go look at it. Click around. It’s embarrassing. We don’t have any of that stuff.
  • “Apple gets it, obviously. They’ve made some fundamentally non-open choices, particularly around their mobile platform. But they understand accessibility and they understand the power of third-party development and they eat their dogfood. And you know what? They make pretty good dogfood. Their APIs are a hell of a lot cleaner than Microsoft’s, and have been since time immemorial.
  • “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.”
  • “I’m just frankly describing what developers.google.com looks like to an outsider. It looks childish. Where’s the Maps APIs in there for Christ’s sake? Some of the things in there are labs projects. And the APIs for everything I clicked were… they were paltry. They were obviously dog food. Not even good organic stuff. Compared to our internal APIs it’s all snouts and horse hooves.”
  • “I’m not saying it’s too late for us, but the longer we wait, the closer we get to being Too Late.”

All in all, the post is amazing. Here’s hoping Google’s upper management overlooks the public publishing mishap, and takes Yegge’s advice to heart. From what we can tell, he deserves to be heard.

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