Google's former director of engineering has put the boot in over life at the company under the leadership of Larry Page, accusing the company of losing its focus on innovation and becoming an “advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus”.
James Whittaker, now a web futurist at Microsoft, also issued a damning indictment of Google's efforts to replicate Facebook's social networking success. Whittaker said even his own daughter refused to use Google+ – a product he'd worked extensively on.
“Google was the rich kid who, after having discovered he wasn’t invited to the party, built his own party in retaliation. The fact that no one came to Google’s party became the elephant in the room,” he wrote on his blog.
Whittaker said his post explaining why he left Google was not intended to create drama or bash previous colleagues. Whittaker left the search giant on 2 February.
Nevertheless, his assessment of Page is scathing.
Under Eric Schmidt, “Google was run like an innovation factory, empowering employees to be entrepreneurial through founder's awards, peer bonuses and 20 per cent time,” he wrote.
The 20 per cent time references the amount of working time Google staff were free to devote to their own pet projects. The result was products such as Gmail and Chrome, Whittaker added.
“Suddenly, 20 per cent meant half-assed. Google Labs was shut down,” Whittaker said.
“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.”
Whittaker's comments may, however, prove reassuring to some investors, which in turn might not please his current employer and Google rival, Microsoft, so much.
A recent report from analyst group Internet Evolution lambasted Google's culture of investing in madcap projects. The report accused Google of wasting billions of dollars in research and development on ideas such as driverless cars and fibre optic broadband, that would never be recouped.
Whittaker joined Google in 2009 as a test director, having previously worked at Microsoft – the company to which he has now returned.