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Microsoft worker tells why he doesn’t like Google

IT IS USUALLY THE FIRM that provides a reference for its ex-staffers, but someone at Microsoft is looking to change that.

In a blog post, James Whittaker, a software developer at Microsoft who used to work at Microsoft before moving to Google and then moving back to Microsoft, says that Google is not the Google he once knew. Yeah, we know.

Whittaker, who made a bit of a name for himself as a Microsoft and software testing blogger, joined Google in 2009, apparently full of hope and great expectations. However, he claims that changed as he realised that the search firm was changing into a business and that he didn’t like it anyway.

“My last three months working for Google was a whirlwind of desperation, trying in vain to get my passion back,” he said. “The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus.”

The importance of the advertising side of Google, always apparent to anyone that looks at the firm, snuck up on its employee and he gradually came to realise that it wasn’t very good at it anymore. Worse, it wasn’t much of an innovator, either. “Under Eric Schmidt ads were always in the background. Google was run like an innovation factory, empowering employees to be entrepreneurial,” he said.

“The fact that all this was paid for by a cash machine stuffed full of advertising loot was lost on most of us. Maybe the engineers who actually worked on ads felt it, but the rest of us were convinced that Google was a technology company first and foremost; a company that hired smart people and placed a big bet on their ability to innovate.”

Although the firm has innovated, it is losing its way because it insists on trying to compete in areas that do not suit it, like social networking. This, he said, is coming at a cost.

“It turns out that there was one place where the Google innovation machine faltered and that one place mattered a lot: competing with Facebook,” he said, explaining that the drive in this direction took Google off course.

Everything all got a bit too “social” for Whittaker, who said that all the Google properties got pulled in that direction. This meant that other things suffered, like Google Labs, which he said was recently shut down.

“Google Labs was shut down. App Engine fees were raised. APIs that had been free for years were deprecated or provided for a fee… The days of old Google hiring smart people and empowering them to invent the future was gone. The new Google knew beyond doubt what the future should look like. Employees had gotten it wrong and corporate intervention would set it right again.”

There is a lot more to it than that, but for all the complaints about competing with Facebook and where the focus should be put, it seems that ultimately Whittaker was never going to be happy at Google.

“Truth is I’ve never been much on advertising,” he said from his desk at Microsoft. “I don’t click on ads. When Gmail displays ads based on things I type into my email message it creeps me out.” µ

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