Google Engineer says Google+ is a "pathetic afterthought"

Mike Halsey MVP
Oct 12, 2011
Updated • Mar 19, 2015

Google Software engineer Steve Yegge accidentally broadcast a 4,500 word rant about the company and described their latest social networking exercise as a "pathetic afterthought" and a "knee-jerk reaction" according to ZDNet's Ed Bott.

In the rant he talked about the failings at the company and then accidentally broadcast it to the world.

Google+ is far from the first attempt by Google at cracking the social networking scene and so far, while popular will some millions of Google service users, it seems to be failing to set the world alight.

In his blog post, Yegge said...

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.


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.

What is clear to everyone is that Facebook have a stranglehold on the social networking market which they achieved through allowing third parties to build their own apps and plug-ins for the service.  As Yegge goes on to say.

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.

He's clearly not happy about working for Google though, a company which has gone from golden child to anti-trust target in just a few short years.

[T]he “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. 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.

It's clear that no company is perfect and that many people inside any company, although I hope not mine [especially as I'm self-employed] will be deeply unhappy with company policy at any one time.

Google+ may or may not be a good or indeed a great product (I've not tried it myself) but it's clear that a great many people think it is a good service and a good idea.  Whether it will gain significant traction in the coming months or be decommissioned like the company's previous attempts at social networking remains to be seen.


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  1. Stu said on October 15, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    I like G+ because of the lack of time sinks and bullshit…

  2. Mystique said on October 13, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    Following Facebook into oblivion will not help them because thats where google+ is headed if they do.
    What they have proven is that Facebook users are seeking an alternative to Facebook, if one were to look its not hard to find disgruntled customers/users of Facebook on the net, many feel the constant changes in the interface (sometimes not for the better) are disruptive, imagine you came home only to find someone had rearranged your furniture and replaced some if it… the point is you build yourself a little home in Facebook and familiarise yourself with it to better assist you and feel comfortable.

    Facebook is also becoming a victim of its own success in many ways as many users are now attempting to protect there data and how they communicate with other people, whilst some of this may be for the better it may also lead to breakdowns in real life social environments and in the behaviour being exhibited in real life.
    There are a lot of concerns when it comes to facebook and privacy is at the top of that list, when it comes to your personal information… who is really the keeper of such data you or Facebook, only time will tell just how much data is kept, how it is maintained and distributed.

    Do I think he should be sacked… no! Do I think he has a point… maybe but everyone is entitled to his opinion however he might find himself looking for a new job soon as with the onset of such services as those detailed above many workplaces have drawn up agreements to prevent such outspoken behaviour. (much to my frustrations)

  3. Gregg L. DesElms said on October 13, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    Ha! How funny. When I received my Ghacks email newsletter today, and I read the headline of this story (and no other part of it), I found myself blurting out, aloud, “I agree.”

    There are some areas in which Google has truly trail-blazed; and of that, Google should be justly proud. But when it comes to creating some kind of Facebook killer, Google is an “also ran.” I predicted, before Google+ even began inviting people to join it, that it would end-up being yet another thing which Google tried, then killed… like Goog411 (boy, was THAT ever a slick service, or WHAT… I sure miss that one).

    Google would have been far smarter to recognize and acceed to the ever-increasing ubiquity of Facebook, and go cut a deal with Mark Zuckerberg whereby Facebook is somehow integrated with GMAIL, and GMAIL with Facebook, in such a manner that,

    a) one could use one site or the other, but not necessarily both, on most days; and,

    b) there’s some kind of mutual sharing of ad revenues between the two companies as a consequence.

    Had Google made such a decision, and then played its cards right, it would have been so positioned with Facebook, and would by then have had such a good and strong relationship therewith, that when Facebook began thinking about making its internal messaging system into real email, GMAIL would likely have been chosen by Zuckerberg, et al, as the only logical method.

    Ultimately it is greed, though, which usually keeps corporate titans like Facebook and Google from figuring out how to play nice together and subsequently reap mutual and/or combined benefits which exceed what either or both of them might have achieved if they decide to battle it out.

    [sigh] Oh, well. It is what it is.

    Gregg L. DesElms
    Napa, California USA
    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

  4. batman said on October 13, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    @derek: as oppose to facebook, everyone was allowed to join from day one?

  5. Rory said on October 13, 2011 at 10:24 am

    I would sack him

    1. RobertMfromLI said on October 17, 2011 at 2:58 am

      I, on the other hand, put NO stock in ANYTHING that Ed Bott writes. Until third party verification of ALL of his “facts”, I chalk it up as having a higher probability of being nonsense than of it being reality. Or haven’t any of you read his “articles”?

      1. RobertMfromLI said on October 17, 2011 at 4:43 am

        Ummm… WOW, I really screwed up on this one. Mr. Bott, ANOTHER apology for mistaking you for another author who’s last name ends very very similarly. My profound apologies.

      2. RobertMfromLI said on October 17, 2011 at 3:01 am

        Apologies Mr Bott, I’ve found that third party supporting evidence.

    2. Dean said on October 13, 2011 at 12:16 pm

      “I would sack him” – what, for telling the truth?

      1. Rory said on October 14, 2011 at 1:51 pm

        No, for being a d*ck that can’t keep his mouth shut and leaking an internal memo openly criticising his employers that was bound to go viral just as they’re launching a new product.

        There are internal channels within any organisation to raise concerns, and teams shouldn’t disagree in public. Bad team player = someone I wouldn’t want working for me. Get rid.

  6. vasa1 said on October 13, 2011 at 9:16 am

    I’m sure there are unhappy people in any organization. Despite that, publicists engaged by Google’s competitors will make hay.

  7. Transcontinental said on October 13, 2011 at 9:08 am

    I think plainly that nowadays if a product exists (in that, a concept made reality) and that the product is a success, and even more if the product is widely successful, and even more if it is a planetary phenomenon, then it is practically impossible to relay that success. That’s how things go nowadays: think different, think first, and expand, and you’re unlikely to be catched up. It’s not a Google problem, it’s a Facebook success.

  8. Derek said on October 13, 2011 at 12:40 am

    Jakim, doesn’t matter if you agree with him or not. The fact is, he’s wrong. Google had a different social networking site called Orkut since 2004. It was wildly successful (in Brazil and India). But the problem with it was that it was invite only – meaning your friends had to invite you first. That meant that it would grow at a slow rate, but it prevented a lot of people from joining to try it out and killed it off before it even started. After a while, it was like “oh you got an Orkut invite, thats so 6 months ago”. Google’s problem is that they didn’t learn from the launch of Orkut when they launched Plus. They already had a social networking site built, but they decided to write one from scratch? Bunch of idiots over there reinventing the wheel.

  9. Jojo said on October 12, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    Perhaps Google’s (and similar commonly described Web 2.0 companies) insistence on only hiring people under a certain age (often rumored to be 35 YO), people who “fit in” to the already existing youth culture is the root of their problems?

    Their genetic code is too narrow and is hurting them in the decisions they make due to a lack of more extensive real world work & life experiences.

  10. Jakim said on October 12, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    I agree with him.

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