Ex-Google staffer accuses search giant of lacking innovation, being too political

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Ex-Google staffer accuses search giant of lacking innovation, being too political

A Google engineer who gained attention in 2011 for writing a critical rant about Google+ has resigned from the search giant and heaped criticism on the company for being mired in politics, unable to innovate and being too competitor focused.

Steve Yegge, a 13-year Google employee, announced his resignation from Google to join Singaporean ride-hailing platform Grab and detailed his grievances in a lengthy Medium post, taking aim at the company's culture as the source of his frustrations.

"The main reason I left Google is that they can no longer innovate. They've pretty much lost that ability. I believe there are several contributing factors, of which I'll list four here," he wrote.

"First, they're conservative: They are so focused on protecting what they've got, that they fear risk-taking and real innovation. Gatekeeping and risk aversion at Google are the norm rather the exception. Second, they are mired in politics, which is sort of inevitable with a large enough organization; the only real alternative is a dictatorship, which has its own downsides.

"Third, Google is arrogant. It has taken me years to understand that a company full of humble individuals can still be an arrogant company. Google has the arrogance of the "we", not the "I". Fourth, last, and probably worst of all, Google has become 100 percent competitor-focused rather than customer focused. They've made a weak attempt to pivot from this, with their new internal slogan 'focus on the user and all else will follow.' But unfortunately, it's just lip service."

Yegge went on to suggest Google's entire portfolio of products over the past 10 years were simply copies of competitors.

"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 anymore," he wrote. 

The article was not Yegge's first lashing of the company, In 2011 he gained notoriety for posting a lengthy rant taking aim at Google's social media platform Google+, suggesting the social network was failing because it was trying to hard to follow the Facebook model.

“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," he wrote in 2011. “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."

The internal culture and political climate of the Silicon Valley giant has been under increased spotlight in recent months. In August last year, James Damore, another former Google engineer, was fired after composing a lengthy and controversial memo criticising the company's diversity policy and perceived political and ideological bias. 

"Distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don't see equal representation of women in tech and leadership," Damore wrote in the company memo.

The memo stoked a heated debate over treatment of women in the male-dominated Silicon Valley that has boiled for months following sexual harassment scandals at Uber Technologies and several venture capital firms.

Damore is now suing Google, saying he was discriminated against as a white man with conservative political views.

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