Former Engineering Director at Google and current Partner Development Manager at Microsoft James Whittaker on Tuesday published a lengthy piece explaining why he chose to leave the Mountain View-based company after having been such a vocal Google evangelist for nearly three years. His post on Microsoft’s MSDN blogs reiterates a number of opinions that have been hot topics in the media of late, but he also offers several insights from a unique point of view that only an insider can offer. In short, Whittaker feels that Google co-founder and current CEO Larry Page completely ruined the company for him.
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Whittaker’s main issue is what, in his opinion, was a core value shift that took place when former chief executive Eric Schmidt stepped down and Larry Page took over at the helm. The former Director acknowledges that advertising has always been Google’s main business, but until Larry Page took over at CEO, advertising was treated as a means to an end, providing the funding that allowed Google employees to build innovative products.
Once Page became Google’s top executive, Whittaker says, the opposite was true. Google’s products became a means to an end, providing the tools Google needs to collect as much personal information as possible about its users, thus better equipping the company to woo advertisers.
“Under Eric Schmidt ads were always in the background,” Whittaker wrote. ”Google was run like an innovation factory, empowering employees to be entrepreneurial through founder’s awards, peer bonuses and 20% time. Our advertising revenue gave us the headroom to think, innovate and create.” He continued, “But that was then, as the saying goes, and this is now.”
Whittaker says that Page became infatuated with Facebook, which is able to gather a massive amount of personal data about its users because of all the information they share using the service. Google needed a way to break into the social sharing space following failed attempts like Wave and Buzz, and advertising was the sole reason for this renewed focus on social networks.
“Larry Page himself assumed command to right this wrong,” Whittaker says in his post. “Social became state-owned, a corporate mandate called Google+. It was an ominous name invoking the feeling that Google alone wasn’t enough. Search had to be social. Android had to be social. You Tube, once joyous in their independence, had to be … well, you get the point. Even worse was that innovation had to be social. Ideas that failed to put Google+ at the center of the universe were a distraction.”
Whittaker concludes, “The old Google was a great place to work. The new one?