Yesterday, a recent long-term ex-Googler by the name of Steve Yegge posted on Medium about his time at the search giant and why he decided to leave after working there for over a decade. In short, Yegge discussed how Google supposedly no longer innovates and is now only competitor-focused. You should probably take his comments with a grain of salt…
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Yegge was a nearly 13-year veteran of Google, working on services such as Grok. During his time at the company, Yegge made headlines after (accidentally) criticizing Google Plus publicly back in 2011. In his Medium post, Yegge says that after that incident, Google Corporate didn’t fire him or outright ban him from blogging, but he felt pressure from several VPs to keep his opinions private.
But now that Yegge has departed from Google and is entering the next chapter of his career, he wanted to share his thoughts about the Silicon Valley company. For some reason, some of his strongest opinions are being widely reported by mainstream media.
Yegge’s main point is that “Google has become 100% competitor-focused rather than customer focused.” He basically draws comparisons between some of the company’s newer products and their equivalents at competing companies:
You can look at Google’s entire portfolio of launches over the past decade, and trace nearly all of them to copying a competitor: Google+ (Facebook), Google Cloud (AWS), Google Home (Amazon Echo), Allo (WhatsApp), Android Instant Apps (Facebook, WeChat), Google Assistant (Apple/Siri), and on and on and on. They are stuck in me-too mode and have been for years. They simply don’t have innovation in their DNA any more. And it’s because their eyes are fixed on their competitors, not their customers.
But despite having no “innovation in their DNA,” Yegge says not all of Alphabet’s different ventures are just rehashes. For example, he clearly states that he believes there are some areas in which the company actually is innovating. “Cloud Spanner, BigQuery, TensorFlow, Waymo, and a few others” are all projects he thinks still show promise within the company.
Regardless of what he says, though, there are a few reasons his thoughts shouldn’t really hold much weight. For one, many of the products he mentions as not innovative are actually leaders (in various ways, if not in sales) in their respective categories. Secondly, as mentioned, Yegge was not a particularly influential Googler despite his long 13-year tenure there.
Finally, another takeaway — and perhaps the biggest reason to ignore this piece — is that the entire second half can basically be summed up as an ad for Yegge’s latest employer. The first half, which focuses on why Google is no longer innovative, is then met with comments about how Grab, a Singapore-based ride-failing service, is going to be the next great thing in Southeast Asia. Ironically enough, he initially describes Grab as anyone would — as an Uber knockoff.
In the end, everyone is entitled to their own opinions. But when one ex-employee’s personal blog post makes national headlines for a subpoint, its good to step back and look at the entire message. Yes, it’s clear that over the past 13 years, Google has changed up how it does business. While Yegge might see that as non-innovative, his points about the search giant entering markets created by competitors doesn’t really serve as proof to back up his claims.
Stephen Hall contributed to this story.