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Google engineer calls Google+ a "knee jerk reaction"

Public post criticises lack of platform strategy, claims Google failed to understand Facebook's success

A staff software engineer at Google has published a critique branding the Google+ platform a "knee-jerk reaction" that has misniterpereted the reasons for Facebook's success.

In a long and wide-ranging post on his Google+ account, Steve Yegge argued that Google+ demonstrates the company's endemic failure to understand the value of building a platform rather than a product.

"Google+ is a prime example of our complete failure to understand platforms from the very highest levels of executive leadership down to the very lowest leaf workers," Yegge wrote. "We all don't get it."

Yegge, who only made the post accessible to those outside the company by accident, called the "Google+ platform" a "pathetic afterthought", citing the absence of an API at launch and the quality of those now available to external developers - "Compared to our internal APIs it's all snouts and horse hooves," he said.

"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," Yegge continued.

"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."

"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.' 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 concludes by stressing the difficulty of making Google+ more open after the fact, claiming it will be, "ten times as much work as just doing it correctly up front."

"Ask anyone who worked on platformising MS Office. Or anyone who worked on platformising Amazon... I'm not saying it's too late for us, but the longer we wait, the closer we get to being Too Late."

The post begins with high praise for Google's internal culture, particularly when compared to Yegge's unflattering portrait of Amazon, his previous employer. However, despite its negativity towards the strategy behind Google+, Google has allowed the post to remain publicly available.

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Matthew Handrahan avatar
Matthew Handrahan: Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.
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