Last night, high-profile Google engineer Steve Yegge mistakenly posted a long rant about working at Amazon and Google’s own issues with creating platforms on Google+. Apparently, he only wanted to share it internally with everybody at Google, but mistaken shared it publicly. For the most part, Yegge’s post focusses on the horrors of working at Amazon, a company that is notorious for its political infighting. The most interesting part to me, though, is Yegge’s blunt assessment of what he perceives to be Google’s inability to understand platforms and how this could endanger the company in the long run.
Google+ Is a Knee-Jerk Reaction
Here is the meat of his argument:
“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.”
While Yegge doesn’t have a lot of good things to say about Amazon and its founder Jeff Bezos, he does note that Bezos – unlike Google – understands that its not just about developing interesting products, but that it takes a platform to create a great product.
Besides Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft understand this, says Yegge: “It’s been part of their culture for a whole generation now. You don’t eat People Food and give your developers Dog Food. Doing that is simply robbing your long-term platform value for short-term successes. Platforms are all about long-term thinking.”
“The Google+ Platform is a Pathetic Afterthought”
He especially criticizes the Google+ team for launching a product without an API:
“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. One of the team members marched in and told me about it when they launched, and I asked: “So is it the Stalker API?” She got all glum and said “Yeah.” I mean, I was joking, but no… the only API call we offer is to get someone’s stream. So I guess the joke was on me.”
Looking at the long term, Yegge implores Google to move away from being a pure product company to becoming more of a platform player:
“The Golden Rule of Platforms, “Eat Your Own Dogfood”, can be rephrased as “Start with a Platform, and Then Use it for Everything.” You can’t just bolt it on later. Certainly not easily at any rate — ask anyone who worked on platformizing MS Office. Or anyone who worked on platformizing Amazon. If you delay it, it’ll be ten times as much work as just doing it correctly up front. You can’t cheat. You can’t have secret back doors for internal apps to get special priority access, not for ANY reason. You need to solve the hard problems up front.
I’m not saying it’s too late for us, but the longer we wait, the closer we get to being Too Late.”
Overall, of course, I’ve been quite positive about Google+ and see it as a step in the right direction for Google. For the most part, Yegge’s arguments do ring true, though. It was quite a surprise to me that Google+ didn’t launch with a fully-baked API right away, for example, but I can also see why the team wanted to get the basic product out and see how people would react to it.
I assume Yegge’s post will kick off some major internal discussion about this at Google. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out over the coming months.
Read the Full Post
Here is a copy of his full post (just click on the box to open it up):
[toggle state=”closed” title=”Steve Yegge’s Full Post”]
Stevey’s Google Platforms Rant
I was at Amazon for about six and a half years, and now I’ve been at Google for that long. One thing that struck me immediately about the two companies — an impression that has been reinforced almost daily — is that Amazon does everything wrong, and Google does everything right. Sure, it’s a sweeping generalization, but a surprisingly accurate one. It’s pretty crazy. There are probably a hundred or even two hundred different ways you can compare the two companies, and Google is superior in all but three of them, if I recall correctly. I actually did a spreadsheet at one point but Legal wouldn’t let me show it to anyone, even though recruiting loved it.
I mean, just to give you a very brief taste: Amazon’s recruiting process is fundamentally flawed by having teams hire for themselves, so their hiring bar is incredibly inconsistent across teams, despite various efforts they’ve made to level it out. And their operations are a mess; they don’t really have SREs and they make engineers pretty much do everything, which leaves almost no time for coding – though again this varies by group, so it’s luck of the draw. They don’t give a single shit about charity or helping the needy or community contributions or anything like that. Never comes up there, except maybe to laugh about it. Their facilities are dirt-smeared cube farms without a dime spent on decor or common meeting areas. Their pay and benefits suck, although much less so lately due to local competition from Google and Facebook. But they don’t have any of our perks or extras — they just try to match the offer-letter numbers, and that’s the end of it. Their code base is a disaster, with no engineering standards whatsoever except what individual teams choose to put in place.
To be fair, they do have a nice versioned-library system that we really ought to emulate, and a nice publish-subscribe system that we also have no equivalent for. But for the most part they just have a bunch of crappy tools that read and write state machine information into relational databases. We wouldn’t take most of it even if it were free.
I think the pubsub system and their library-shelf system were two out of the grand total of three things Amazon does better than google.
I guess you could make an argument that their bias for launching early and iterating like mad is also something they do well, but you can argue it either way. They prioritize launching early over everything else, including retention and engineering discipline and a bunch of other stuff that turns out to matter in the long run. So even though it’s given them some competitive advantages in the marketplace, it’s created enough other problems to make it something less than a slam-dunk.
But there’s one thing they do really really well that pretty much makes up for ALL of their political, philosophical and technical screw-ups.
Jeff Bezos is an infamous micro-manager. He micro-manages every single pixel of Amazon’s retail site. He hired Larry Tesler, Apple’s Chief Scientist and probably the very most famous and respected human-computer interaction expert in the entire world, and then ignored every goddamn thing Larry said for three years until Larry finally — wisely — left the company. Larry would do these big usability studies and demonstrate beyond any shred of doubt that nobody can understand that frigging website, but Bezos just couldn’t let go of those pixels, all those millions of semantics-packed pixels on the landing page. They were like millions of his own precious children. So they’re all still there, and Larry is not.
Micro-managing isn’t that third thing that Amazon does better than us, by the way. I mean, yeah, they micro-manage really well, but I wouldn’t list it as a strength or anything. I’m just trying to set the context here, to help you understand what happened. We’re talking about a guy who in all seriousness has said on many public occasions that people should be paying him to work at Amazon. He hands out little yellow stickies with his name on them, reminding people “who runs the company” when they disagree with him. The guy is a regular… well, Steve Jobs, I guess. Except without the fashion or design sense. Bezos is super smart; don’t get me wrong. He just makes ordinary control freaks look like stoned hippies.
So one day Jeff Bezos issued a mandate. He’s doing that all the time, of course, and people scramble like ants being pounded with a rubber mallet whenever it happens. But on one occasion — back around 2002 I think, plus or minus a year — he issued a mandate that was so out there, so huge and eye-bulgingly ponderous, that it made all of his other mandates look like unsolicited peer bonuses.
His Big Mandate went something along these lines:
1) All teams will henceforth expose their data and functionality through service interfaces.
2) Teams must communicate with each other through these interfaces.
3) There will be no other form of interprocess communication allowed: no direct linking, no direct reads of another team’s data store, no shared-memory model, no back-doors whatsoever. The only communication allowed is via service interface calls over the network.
4) It doesn’t matter what technology they use. HTTP, Corba, Pubsub, custom protocols — doesn’t matter. Bezos doesn’t care.
5) All service interfaces, without exception, must be designed from the ground up to be externalizable. That is to say, the team must plan and design to be able to expose the interface to developers in the outside world. No exceptions.
6) Anyone who doesn’t do this will be fired.
7) Thank you; have a nice day!
Ha, ha! You 150-odd ex-Amazon folks here will of course realize immediately that #7 was a little joke I threw in, because Bezos most definitely does not give a shit about your day.
#6, however, was quite real, so people went to work. Bezos assigned a couple of Chief Bulldogs to oversee the effort and ensure forward progress, headed up by Uber-Chief Bear Bulldog Rick Dalzell. Rick is an ex-Armgy Ranger, West Point Academy graduate, ex-boxer, ex-Chief Torturer slash CIO at Wal*Mart, and is a big genial scary man who used the word “hardened interface” a lot. Rick was a walking, talking hardened interface himself, so needless to say, everyone made LOTS of forward progress and made sure Rick knew about it.
Over the next couple of years, Amazon transformed internally into a service-oriented architecture. They learned a tremendous amount while effecting this transformation. There was lots of existing documentation and lore about SOAs, but at Amazon’s vast scale it was about as useful as telling Indiana Jones to look both ways before crossing the street. Amazon’s dev staff made a lot of discoveries along the way. A teeny tiny sampling of these discoveries included:
– pager escalation gets way harder, because a ticket might bounce through 20 service calls before the real owner is identified. If each bounce goes through a team with a 15-minute response time, it can be hours before the right team finally finds out, unless you build a lot of scaffolding and metrics and reporting.
– every single one of your peer teams suddenly becomes a potential DOS attacker. Nobody can make any real forward progress until very serious quotas and throttling are put in place in every single service.
– monitoring and QA are the same thing. You’d never think so until you try doing a big SOA. But when your service says “oh yes, I’m fine”, it may well be the case that the only thing still functioning in the server is the little component that knows how to say “I’m fine, roger roger, over and out” in a cheery droid voice. In order to tell whether the service is actually responding, you have to make individual calls. The problem continues recursively until your monitoring is doing comprehensive semantics checking of your entire range of services and data, at which point it’s indistinguishable from automated QA. So they’re a continuum.
– if you have hundreds of services, and your code MUST communicate with other groups’ code via these services, then you won’t be able to find any of them without a service-discovery mechanism. And you can’t have that without a service registration mechanism, which itself is another service. So Amazon has a universal service registry where you can find out reflectively (programmatically) about every service, what its APIs are, and also whether it is currently up, and where.
– debugging problems with someone else’s code gets a LOT harder, and is basically impossible unless there is a universal standard way to run every service in a debuggable sandbox.
That’s just a very small sample. There are dozens, maybe hundreds of individual learnings like these that Amazon had to discover organically. There were a lot of wacky ones around externalizing services, but not as many as you might think. Organizing into services taught teams not to trust each other in most of the same ways they’re not supposed to trust external developers.
This effort was still underway when I left to join Google in mid-2005, but it was pretty far advanced. From the time Bezos issued his edict through the time I left, Amazon had transformed culturally into a company that thinks about everything in a services-first fashion. It is now fundamental to how they approach all designs, including internal designs for stuff that might never see the light of day externally.
At this point they don’t even do it out of fear of being fired. I mean, they’re still afraid of that; it’s pretty much part of daily life there, working for the Dread Pirate Bezos and all. But they do services because they’ve come to understand that it’s the Right Thing. There are without question pros and cons to the SOA approach, and some of the cons are pretty long. But overall it’s the right thing because SOA-driven design enables Platforms.
That’s what Bezos was up to with his edict, of course. He didn’t (and doesn’t) care even a tiny bit about the well-being of the teams, nor about what technologies they use, nor in fact any detail whatsoever about how they go about their business unless they happen to be screwing up. But Bezos realized long before the vast majority of Amazonians that Amazon needs to be a platform.
You wouldn’t really think that an online bookstore needs to be an extensible, programmable platform. Would you?
Well, the first big thing Bezos realized is that the infrastructure they’d built for selling and shipping books and sundry could be transformed an excellent repurposable computing platform. So now they have the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, and the Amazon Elastic MapReduce, and the Amazon Relational Database Service, and a whole passel’ o’ other services browsable ataws.amazon.com. These services host the backends for some pretty successful companies, reddit being my personal favorite of the bunch.
The other big realization he had was that he can’t always build the right thing. I think Larry Tesler might have struck some kind of chord in Bezos when he said his mom couldn’t use the goddamn website. It’s not even super clear whose mom he was talking about, and doesn’t really matter, because nobody’s mom can use the goddamn website. In fact I myself find the website disturbingly daunting, and I worked there for over half a decade. I’ve just learned to kinda defocus my eyes and concentrate on the million or so pixels near the center of the page above the fold.
I’m not really sure how Bezos came to this realization — the insight that he can’t build one product and have it be right for everyone. But it doesn’t matter, because he gets it. There’s actually a formal name for this phenomenon. It’s called Accessibility, and it’s the most important thing in the computing world.
The. Most. Important. Thing.
If you’re sorta thinking, “huh? You mean like, blind and deaf people Accessibility?” then you’re not alone, because I’ve come to understand that there are lots and LOTS of people just like you: people for whom this idea does not have the right Accessibility, so it hasn’t been able to get through to you yet. It’s not your fault for not understanding, any more than it would be your fault for being blind or deaf or motion-restricted or living with any other disability. When software — or idea-ware for that matter — fails to be accessible toanyone for any reason, it is the fault of the software or of the messaging of the idea. It is an Accessibility failure.
Like anything else big and important in life, Accessibility has an evil twin who, jilted by the unbalanced affection displayed by their parents in their youth, has grown into an equally powerful Arch-Nemesis (yes, there’s more than one nemesis to accessibility) named Security. And boy howdy are the two ever at odds.
But I’ll argue that Accessibility is actually more important than Security because dialing Accessibility to zero means you have no product at all, whereas dialing Security to zero can still get you a reasonably successful product such as the Playstation Network.
So yeah. In case you hadn’t noticed, I could actually write a book on this topic. A fat one, filled with amusing anecdotes about ants and rubber mallets at companies I’ve worked at. But I will never get this little rant published, and you’ll never get it read, unless I start to wrap up.
That one last thing that Google doesn’t do well is Platforms. 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.
But no. No, it’s like our tenth or eleventh priority. Or fifteenth, I don’t know. It’s pretty low. There are a few teams who treat the idea very seriously, but most teams either don’t think about it all, ever, or only a small percentage of them think about it in a very small way.
It’s a big stretch even to get most teams to offer a stubby service to get programmatic access to their data and computations. Most of them think they’re building products. And a stubby service is a pretty pathetic service. Go back and look at that partial list of learnings from Amazon, and tell me which ones Stubby gives you out of the box. As far as I’m concerned, it’s none of them. Stubby’s great, but it’s like parts when you need a car.
A product is useless without a platform, or more precisely and accurately, a platform-less product will always be replaced by an equivalent platform-ized product.
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. One of the team members marched in and told me about it when they launched, and I asked: “So is it the Stalker API?” She got all glum and said “Yeah.” I mean, I was joking, but no… the only API call we offer is to get someone’s stream. So I guess the joke was on me.
Microsoft has known about the Dogfood rule for at least twenty years. It’s been part of their culture for a whole generation now. You don’t eat People Food and give your developers Dog Food. Doing that is simply robbing your long-term platform value for short-term successes. Platforms are all about long-term thinking.
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.
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.
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.
Larry Tesler may have convinced Bezos that he was no Steve Jobs, but Bezos realized that he didn’t need to be a Steve Jobs in order to provide everyone with the right products: interfaces and workflows that they liked and felt at ease with. He just needed to enable third-party developers to do it, and it would happen automatically.
I apologize to those (many) of you for whom all this stuff I’m saying is incredibly obvious, because yeah. It’s incredibly frigging obvious. Except we’re not doing it. We don’t get Platforms, and we don’t get Accessibility. The two are basically the same thing, because platforms solve accessibility. A platform is accessibility.
So yeah, Microsoft gets it. And you know as well as I do how surprising that is, because they don’t “get” much of anything, really. But they understand platforms as a purely accidental outgrowth of having started life in the business of providing platforms. So they have thirty-plus years of learning in this space. And if you go to msdn.com, and spend some time browsing, and you’ve never seen it before, prepare to be amazed. Because it’s staggeringly huge. They have thousands, and thousands, and THOUSANDS of API calls. They have a HUGE platform. Too big in fact, because they can’t design for squat, but at least they’re doing it.
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.
After you’ve marveled at the platform offerings of Microsoft and Amazon, and Facebook I guess (I didn’t look because I didn’t want to get too depressed), head over to developers.google.com and browse a little. Pretty big difference, eh? It’s like what your fifth-grade nephew might mock up if he were doing an assignment to demonstrate what a big powerful platform company might be building if all they had, resource-wise, was one fifth grader.
Please don’t get me wrong here — I know for a fact that the dev-rel team has had to FIGHT to get even this much available externally. They’re kicking ass as far as I’m concerned, because they DO get platforms, and they are struggling heroically to try to create one in an environment that is at best platform-apathetic, and at worst often openly hostile to the idea.
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.
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. Maestro’s funding is a feeble thing compared to the gargantuan Microsoft Office programming platform: it’s a fluffy rabbit versus a T-Rex. The Docs team knows they’ll never be competitive with Office until they can match its scripting facilities, but they’re not getting any resource love. I mean, I assume they’re not, given that Apps Script only works in Spreadsheet right now, and it doesn’t even have keyboard shortcuts as part of its API. That team looks pretty unloved to me.
Ironically enough, Wave was a great platform, may they rest in peace. But making something a platform is not going to make you an instant success. A platform needs a killer app. Facebook — that is, the stock service they offer with walls and friends and such — is the killer app for the Facebook Platform. And it is a very serious mistake to conclude that the Facebook App could have been anywhere near as successful without the Facebook Platform.
You know how people are always saying Google is arrogant? I’m a Googler, so I get as irritated as you do when people say that. We’re not arrogant, by and large. We’re, like, 99% Arrogance-Free. I did start this post — if you’ll reach back into distant memory — by describing Google as “doing everything right”. We do mean well, and for the most part when people say we’re arrogant it’s because we didn’t hire them, or they’re unhappy with our policies, or something along those lines. They’re inferring arrogance because it makes them feel better.
But when we take the stance that we know how to design the perfect product for everyone, and believe you me, I hear that a lot, then we’re being fools. You can attribute it to arrogance, or naivete, or whatever — it doesn’t matter in the end, because it’s foolishness. There IS no perfect product for everyone.
And so we wind up with a browser that doesn’t let you set the default font size. Talk about an affront to Accessibility. I mean, as I get older I’m actually going blind. For real. I’ve been nearsighted all my life, and once you hit 40 years old you stop being able to see things up close. So font selection becomes this life-or-death thing: it can lock you out of the product completely. But the Chrome team is flat-out arrogant here: they want to build a zero-configuration product, and they’re quite brazen about it, and Fuck You if you’re blind or deaf or whatever. Hit Ctrl-+ on every single page visit for the rest of your life.
It’s not just them. It’s everyone. The problem is that we’re a Product Company through and through. We built a successful product with broad appeal — our search, that is — and that wild success has biased us.
Amazon was a product company too, so it took an out-of-band force to make Bezos understand the need for a platform. That force was their evaporating margins; he was cornered and had to think of a way out. But all he had was a bunch of engineers and all these computers… if only they could be monetized somehow… you can see how he arrived at AWS, in hindsight.
Microsoft started out as a platform, so they’ve just had lots of practice at it.
Facebook, though: they worry me. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure they started off as a Product and they rode that success pretty far. So I’m not sure exactly how they made the transition to a platform. It was a relatively long time ago, since they had to be a platform before (now very old) things like Mafia Wars could come along.
Maybe they just looked at us and asked: “How can we beat Google? What are they missing?”
The problem we face is pretty huge, because it will take a dramatic cultural change in order for us to start catching up. We don’t do internal service-oriented platforms, and we just as equally don’t do external ones. This means that the “not getting it” is endemic across the company: the PMs don’t get it, the engineers don’t get it, the product teams don’t get it, nobody gets it. Even if individuals do, even if YOU do, it doesn’t matter one bit unless we’re treating it as an all-hands-on-deck emergency. We can’t keep launching products and pretending we’ll turn them into magical beautiful extensible platforms later. We’ve tried that and it’s not working.
The Golden Rule of Platforms, “Eat Your Own Dogfood”, can be rephrased as “Start with a Platform, and Then Use it for Everything.” You can’t just bolt it on later. Certainly not easily at any rate — ask anyone who worked on platformizing MS Office. Or anyone who worked on platformizing Amazon. If you delay it, it’ll be ten times as much work as just doing it correctly up front. You can’t cheat. You can’t have secret back doors for internal apps to get special priority access, not for ANY reason. You need to solve the hard problems up front.
I’m not saying it’s too late for us, but the longer we wait, the closer we get to being Too Late.
I honestly don’t know how to wrap this up. I’ve said pretty much everything I came here to say today. This post has been six years in the making. I’m sorry if I wasn’t gentle enough, or if I misrepresented some product or team or person, or if we’re actually doing LOTS of platform stuff and it just so happens that I and everyone I ever talk to has just never heard about it. I’m sorry.
But we’ve gotta start doing this right.
To reinforce the points made here, I have some Software that allows Users to individually or simultaneously made rich Posts to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I'd love to add Google+ to this list, but they don't even have something equivalent to Facebook's "http://www.facebook.com/sharer.php" which allows 3rd Party SW to enable the User to more easily Post when triggered from outside the Facebook Site... I'm not looking for an API where my SW has to ask for permission and court distrust (even that would be nice too), but rather something as simple as allowing a User who's already authenticated to Post.
Now something good about Google APIs... I find that the Chrome Extension and App API is both simple enough yet powerful enough and also solves many of the dirty problems like cross-domain service calls to be a suitable base for the still ill-defined Chrome OS. If you haven't tried out writing an extension yet, you should... It's so much cleaner and powerful than the Microsoft IE Extension Architecture which, by the way, is one of the most poorly documented areas of Microsoft's vast platform..
Well, Mr. Yegge might have posted this publicly as a mistake, but you don't really need to be a Googler to figure this stuff out.
Just as Apple is known to create amazing products out of old ideas, its about time Google be known as a company which screws up otherwise really good stuff.
Google can still beat all of her competitors, its got Android, Google+, Talk, Apps in cloud. It has all the components to be really great! Why aren't they doing it???
Actually I wrote a blog post about this exact topic several months ago which can be read here: http://jaffar.pk/blog/google-ecosystem-analysis/
Interesting article though the full post is really not so much about G+ ( much bigger than that ) as it is about the philosophy of Google. Half of Google's mind just wants to be "search" the other half wants to be AppleSoftaZon.
Since the original other products ( Gmail and later, Picasa) were introduced just to compete with Yahoo tit for tat but it kinda morphed into competing with Microsoft Office and the Apple iPhone and Amazon with music and books and .... then Sergie came back into management and started killing off stuff. Thank God G's search revenue is enormous and no one, not even Microsoft, has been able to buy into that business, otherwise Google's lack of success in most of the "other" products would have buried them.
In short, the rant was GREATn advice for a Google that wants to be in the "software as a web service" sector and they are very lucky to have an engineer that speaks out and communicates so effectively.
Personally, post Schmidt, I think they will start dropping off any new development efforts that do not lead to "enhancing search revenue". Amazon, Microsoft and others have the cloud services act together already.
Nowadays, in our Societies, people get bored very quickly about everything. just watch TV show and series, they come and ago depending on people's mood! Loyalty does not really exists as it used to back then.
Facebook is awfully boring now! As MySpace got boring when it changed everything! So I think Google+ comes right on time! I opened a Google+ Account because the new Facebook is not fun anymore! And I must say that their news feed being totally confusing, it was one of the reason I left! Too complicated! too many settings to deal with! I want something simple to use! Facebook is not as simple as it used to and the fact they never stop changing everything all the time just gets on my nerves.
Google+ is not better from what I've seen for now but it is definitely a fresh break from Facebook. The presentation looks good and it is SIMPLE to use so far!
I have thought and said similar things about other Google attempts at software, but only recently tried Google+ which is even worse than I imagined conceivable. I hope this guy is elevated at Google, they certainly need some more people with common sense like this.
Casually tossing off such a poor Facebook copy really implies Google is smugly confident that they can ride out their early success forever. Unless they take criticism like this to heart, they have no chance.
Interestingly enough, this is also a really good real life example of how social media, privacy and the Internet work. I have no doubt that Steve Yegge bought a one way ticket to the dog house at Google when he accidentally published a rant on Google+ publicly instead of only sharing it with his private circles. Perhaps I need to send Steve my blog post <a href="http://danatanseo.blogspot.com/2011/07/sunday-seo-10-1-simple-strategies.html">10 + 1 Simple Strategies for Blogging Success: Why you shouldn’t blog when angry, drunk, high or naked</a>?
Remember - anything you say or do online can be seen and read by anyone. Removing a post doesn't make it go away and in Steve Yegge's case, it just fanned the flames.
An interesting article, however I did a Corporate Strategy report as part of my MBA and I found that Google is the platform. In other words the combination of the base search engine, computational resources, talent pool, acquisitions, new product development, and so on makes up the constellation... Google+ is a start within the constellation of products and ideas. Full MBA report available freely @ http://bit.ly/oJxfhD
I guess I'm a little surprised by the tenor of the comments; this isn't primarily about G+ and Facebook. The issue is: is it critical to Google to have a foundational platform on which its various products run and the discipline to use it? Yegge uses G+ as an example but argues that this should be a full implementation so that Chrome SOA layer is the same layer used by Gmail & Android. Will Google be able to better focus their energies on search and driving people to their web tools (Chrome Browser & Android) by allowing external access to their APIs to extend their platform? Yegge answers yes and I would agree. Whether G+ coexists with Facebook (as I believe) or G+ "wins" or "loses" against Facebook is a separate issue.
It's interesting to hear opinions from inside Google however Steve Yegg is wrong about a few things.
Facebook was successful because they created something that wasn't in the market that people wanted and also created a critical mass of users. It was successful _long_ before there were good ways to write Facebook apps.
He's right that Google+ is an kneejerk reaction and is on the road to failure but not because it is not developer friendly. It's too late for any social network to compete with Facebook. That game was won by Facebook many years ago. To top Facebook you have to create a product an order of magnitude better than Facebook - and market the hell out of it (big $$$) - so that everyone leaves Facebook at the same time. It's not going to happen!
Ok, let's just say it how it is.
This is a rare glimpse into the reality behind the closed doors of a highly secretive and PR-obsessed corporation, where information is tightly controlled. Google led the way in search, but that was a decade ago and the web has moved on. Facebook (partnered with and part owned by Microsoft) has overtaken Google.com as the most popular website. Google has now firmly established a pattern of imitation and acquisition instead of innovation, blatantly copying other people’s ideas but often missing the point – and “Google+” is an excellent example of this pathological mentality.
If the leak was deliberate, it may be a calculated risk – Google’s PR folks know the employee can’t be sacked without drawing more attention to the story, at least not immediately.
Ironically, this bad-news story is also somehow reassuring -- it suggests that Google does still employ at least one wise person who isn’t dazzled blind by the company’s historical successes and can even think for himself.
I would say the Googler is wrong. Google's problem is that it is too many platforms!
They have a really fragmented ecosystem that are revolving around various Google Products. Google Gagdets around iGoogle, Chrome Store around Chrome (and Chrome OS), Google+ Games around Google+, Android Apps for Android, App marketplace for Google Apps...
So much for really being open and promoting interoptability. But while they had all these product slowly but surely they are making them converge.
1. They are all based on web technologies
2. Most still operate on the same APIs / Same design principles...
3. They used to have two infrastructure of login (Google Accounts and Google Apps Account): they merged these (although the migration was a nightmare for customers)
I was also really surprised by the fact that Google+ launch without support of Google Apps and no API! But Google philosophy is realease often and release early. As some people say: if you are not embarassed when you launch a product on the web, you waited too long.
I see a screenplay here if George Lucas can direct it.
We could use an official Google rebuttle on the Portfolio and plans (or not) for a PowerShell type of API or "console".
I fully agree with Yegge, and opening APIs for all Google products, it would allow for some amazing applications. But as an outsider looking in I would expect Google to be developing the lower layer platform (Android) and move up from there. Google would "own" 1 extra UI layer then Amazon.
Facebook has had and still has all kinds of issues and it's seven years old. Google Plus isn't even one. I don't know why we all expect a baby platform to run and function like an adult when it hasn't even learned who it is and how it's going to walk. Set some realistic expectations folks. I agree with some of it, Google could have made some smarter decisions but who cares, it's still solid for how old it is and can only get better.
Here is the deal - your boss (be it a PM/lead/manager) wants the "functionality" and eager to get it out-of-the-door. And there is no Bezos to police or mandate for an interface/service. SOA has bee there for ever.. and not until Amazon came up with the "cloud", nobody cared. As long as you architect/design your product with service orientation, you should be fine. it doesnt matter when you publish it as a service or provide the APIs. You may figure you may not need to publish them at all if the product is dead. Every product design should think service centric and not as an afterthought.
Yegge complains about G+ not having an API from launch - but it's easy to forget Facebook didn't have all the apps / platform-style stuff either initially. It's ok for that to come later as long as it's executed well. Facebook have executed almost flawlessly and success has followed. I think the G+ team were trying to avoid the Buzz trap, where everyone just used the Buzz API to replicate their Twitter feeds. This lead to little original content in the service and hence it's eventual failure.
Good points delivered in such a way they are not likely to be ignored or misunderstood.
Another thing. I am glad I am not the only one that can't understand when and where the Google Identites change on ya.
Does anyone remember Google Wave? total flop. Do one thing and one thing only, Google you have cornered the market on SEM and PPC? Do you really need to be Facebook too? I really think the birth of Google+ came out of spite from not being able to acquire facebook.
agree with Tinu, there's no friggin way this post was an "accident". good read though... part about PSN was hilarious
What's great about this to me is that if Google doesn't listen to its own people, it at least opens the door for them to be able to state their thoughts frankly without the risk of being fired. However. I find it hard to believe that this was "accidentally' shared. Not *impossible* - I've done some boneheaded things in my life. But I got here from a link that was mocking Circles as if the failure is that Google's system is too hard, and not simple user error. If you can manage to put the right people in an email, it shouldn't be that hard to use Circles.
I wish more internal memos or rants that get exposed to the world were this funny. Thanks for posting.
The real story about the boy who pointed out that the emperor had no clothes, was that he was thrown into a dungeon and beheaded the next day.
I agree with many of your points. But I disagree with A) that google+ is on the road to failure, and B) that it is game over in social networking.
Google + is actually pretty darn useful. I have seen many of my friends migrate over to it. I opened an account, and see quite a lot of posting going on over there among my own circles. Secondly, there is a long history of platforms online that absolutely dominated, only to later implode unexpectedly. I think it is far more likely that facebook implodes, and someone else takes their place.
AOL had the Internet locked up. Then came Alta Vista and Yahoo. Not social networks as we know them today, but with many of the same features.. ie instant chat, groups, games, etc. The came MySpace. Five years ago, everyone thought MySpace had social networking locked up.Facebook's secret sauce was its mutually exclusive nature. I could rant about anything I wanted, without fear of it getting back to my boss, because only my closest friends and family would see it.
They are quickly stepping away from their secret sauce while google + embraces it.
Impossible to know who will be next, but I believe one thing is inevitable. Facebook is doomed to become an overbloated yesteryear darling, that will decrease in value again and again as the years roll on.
Yes, we do see facebook logos everyone today, but we also used to see "aol keyword..." everywhere...
I have to agree. Facebook's success has more to do with good timing, because the apps and API came a lot later, not up front. I remember signing up for Facebook back when it was for College students only. You couldn't do a whole lot, but it was fun, and still a time-sucker. When it started changing, I left and came back a couple years later. I didn't even recognize it at all anymore, it had grown a lot more complicated. I honestly don't even come close to using it as much now than I did back when it was more simple.
That is one thing I LIKE about Google+. Sure, a more simple Google+ probably isn't good for Google's bottom line, but I enjoy it right now, a nice break from Facebook. When it gets more complicated, and I'm sure it will, we'll see what happens...
@djdrey I agree. Making a platform takes time. I think Google+ is finally a good initiative to start buidling one with a real long term vision.
The success of Facebook and even Apple's iPhone is very highly dependent on "apps." They may have not had it initially, maybe back then just having enough users on one network, college-exclusivity, and other factors were enough....maybe for the iPhone being sleek & expensive and easy to use was enough. But now, having a robust API and/or AppStore is the entry fee to launching any successful platform-type product. G+ needs a full-fledged API ASAP, period.
It's not OK. Facebook didn't have any meaningful competition to hold off. Everyone hated how shabby myspace looked and people were hurting for ANY alternative and Facebook got that wave. Google has to not only make a deep system with API's and other features from the get-go, but they also have to show that their platform is worth switching over to from Facebook which does have those things. The job will be much harder for G+ to get that social gravity that Facebook got and still has. Yegge is right.. Google can't afford to piecemeal this out.. or they won't have anyone paying attention to what they do piecemeal out to G+. It needs to be deep, solid and useful. Right now it's an interesting diversion and not much else. There's nothing about G+ that makes you think "Yeah this is worth moving over for and i know my friends will come too". That alone is the biggest nail in the coffin they should be trying to avoid.
@labbateseo G+ seems to have been born of necessity. No-one *likes* facebook, but near everyone relies on it. That's a crappy situation. G+ is an awful long way from ideal, but I don't fear or hate it as I do facebook.
[i use fear and hate as emotive indicators rather than factual statements. fb more just pisses me off, and always has done]
No, it came from being a company that thrives off of data, and having this enormous amount of data locked away from search engines. Google wants to be able to use that data to improve your experience of the Internet.
So am I... the computational resources (fibre, cloud, CPU's, etc) Google has at hand are IMHO top 10 in the world, which they use to primarily provide search that feeds the advertising engine. From this base they created Gmail, YouTube, G+ and they provide advertising opportunities. The Google system is the platform, the products are the stars.
Facebook evolved over time from small beginnings . People joined because there peers were using it so they started using it too. When they signed up to Facebook they joined a conversation that was already happening. Google+ started big. A load of people signed up at the same time and nothing was happening so they lost interest.
Maybe they should be moving faster - but c'mon, it's been public for what? two months? I think it's eventually not going to *directly* compete with Facebook. Getting 500M+ users to update two services just aint gonna happen overnight and almost everyone is pretty happy with Facebook (even if they are invading your privacy, most either don't notice or don't care).
No.. I think G+ will succeed with slightly different angles.. ones that will evolve over time. Specifically, I'm excited about G+ for domains. As a business owner, I'm in the process of planning our migration to Google Apps for our mail etc.. Having G+ as an add-on to that service, allowing our organisation to discuss issues and share links etc is going to be awesome and I understand they're working on that. This also drags people into the G+ ecosystem and will result in many using it for personal use where they may have otherwise not.
Also, Facebook really took off as it allowed brands to promote the service. Once G+ does the same, you're going to see an increase in the take up. I believe Google are going to do a better job here than FB.. eg. analytics: Facebook Insights is a load of crap, GA for G+ pages will no doubt be excellent quality.
As an aside, I'd have a crazy notion that Google could integrate AdSense into G+. I think Google are going to need some carrots to dangle to get brands to promote it as their #1 destination over a Facebook Fan page.. Why couldn't they easily give you a cut of the ad revenue on your G+ Brand page using AdSense? For larger brands, it could end up being significant $
The point of the platform is that it's accessible to others. the "They" above refers only to Google not to third party developers which is the point of the whole article (unless you're Steve Jobs you can't know in advance what people want.. the best you can hope to do is create an extensible platform that third party developers will create products that people want to use and thus create an ecosystem). This is what he refers to when he talks about google providing parts when people want a car.
Having used both AWS and google's offering, there's no comparison. Amazon gives me everything I need (and then some) to host a successful product.
You've missed the whole point of the article.
"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.
"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?"
How can Google get third parties to do all the work of building out Google+ (and the Google platform in general) if all these tools are only accessible internally? It's all about the Dogfood Principle ("You don’t eat People Food and give your developers Dog Food."), and Google gets this one 180 degrees wrong.
Google gets this one so completely wrong that with respect to platforms, it might be best to call Google "Defective by Design." They built this amazing wonderland of brilliant tools and back end design and communication pathways. But they didn't enforce a service-oriented architecture, so it's hard for one part of the company to build on the work of another part of the company, and when they do, they probably just go to the data out there on the base platform. And they hired brilliant people and built a system for brilliant Google people and didn't want to share that system with all the non-brilliant non-Google people out in the world at large because that system was their special thing that made them better than everyone else.
So flipping that around and trying to turn things into world-accessible platforms with open lines of communication to outside developers and consistent, documented public APIs will be so hard it will be like rethinking the whole company and how it works.
If the "Stars" don't easily connect with each other, all the work to do that is left up to the User... Say I'm reading a Document with a Link in it and realize I wan't to select some Text and Post the Link to Google+. I can write software that allows Users to post to Twitter or Facebook with a couple of simple clicks. With Google+ (with no Post API), the User has to be really motivated... That's what he's talking about and it'll hurt Google no matter how they want to blink us with more "Stars"...
An excellent summary, and gets right to the heart of the matter... accessibility. The Google system is seemingly accessible internally, by Googlers, to build and execute products like YouTube, Gmail, G+, etc. Is this internal accessibility via SOA or API; I do not know. Is there the same granularity of SOA or API exposed externally; post suggested little is exposed externally vs competition.
However, I still believe that the Google system is the platform upon which the stars are created. Do these stars themselves have equivalent accessibility externally (vs competition) to become platforms within themselves... do they all need high levels of developer API accessibility (YouTube?), when do the ones that do need it actually need it (Facebook didn't have it initially), will accessibility drive value (advertising, user base) or deplete resources (CPU time, fibre use) or create value elsewhere (another ad engine)? Android has been successful and is quite accessible to 3rd parties because it had to be (vs Apple originally), and IMHO G+ will probably take a leaf of out Facebook's eh book and become a platform accessible to 3rd parties. However, currently maybe Google is doing an Amazon with G+ and releasing early with later improvements (inc. 3rd party API's).
All in all, my outside of Google view is that Google gets platform, Google is the platform, it's their platform, and the public go to it in their droves, and quarterly reports have an upward trend!
@karlquinn The point : the architecture of the Google platform was built JUST for search, optimized in every area, hardware and software, for massive, fast search. Not meant to be anything else. As a result there were little accommodations made for adding new services or allowing access outside of google.
Like a house with no doors.
This design philosophy continued, and, you can't easily go back and add the doors and security etc. But it has to be done. Especially for new products. Steve is asking for whole design philosophy change. I think that is the point of the "rant post", they must assume everything will be accessible by the public in the early stages of design.
So, compared to Amazon and Microsoft, Google is not a universal platform, it is not a universal chassis like a GM that can be a pickup, SUV, minvan, or big sedan, it is a custom race car built to be the best on one track. No mount points for the minivan or SUV body.
@rebecca.dias yes - tho I'm imagining Google will have some controls on that sort of thing. If they don't, they could have released it already..
You don't release a product until it can prove itself against the competition. You don't just "build up" to it with hype and empty promises to the millions of people that register and linger on your service for weeks and months while the tumbleweeds roll by.
Facebook didn't have an API at launch because the people using that site didn't have a need for it. It was a much different site with a completely different atmosphere.
G+ could have had a tremendous impact on Facebook if it'd continued to build itself internally and then busted out of the doors when Facebook inevitably makes an update that really pisses people off and causes another exodus (i.e. every update). Instead you've got this half-baked thing flailing around making itself look stupid.
This isn't even something that had to be rushed. Facebook has been around for 5+ years, MySpace, Friendster, LiveJournal, even longer than that. If they wanted to get into the social game, they needed better ownership of the product and the idea. You need people that have built, consulted and helped spearhead those types of initiatives before. If they did employ these tactics, I am at a loss for words. G+ from any other company other than Google would have flopped on arrival. It would have been entirely pointless.
Once you set people up like that, it's hard to get them back. You can do it, but a company like Google already has trust issues and with the idea of self-maintained user nodes (like Diaspora) is becoming more and more the idea of the future of social networking.
And a word of advice: you should really look into the nightmares Google Mail can cause for businesses. We had endless outages, lost mail, mail that didn't send or receive for anywhere from an hour to 5 days with absolutely no support whatsoever.
There are better platforms than G+ for social intranets / collaboration / customer engagement, even LinkedIn is buying companies out to implement their products into the site. I would look into some of those services as they're more fleshed out instead of hoping that Google pulls its head out of its ass with this one.