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Ex-Googler Rips Google, Says It's Gone From 'Innovation Factory' To 'Ad Company'

The Huffington Post  |  By Bianca Bosker Posted: 03/15/2012 2:47 pm Updated: 03/15/2012 2:55 pm

Ex Googler James Whittaker Google

Former Google engineer James Whittaker has a message for the web giant: You've changed.

In a post published on Microsoft's official blog explaining why he decided to leave Google after three years, Whittaker lamented that Google had gone from a company focused on technological innovation to one obsessed with advertising, mastering "social," and beating Facebook. Google's emphasis on pioneering new technology and empowering employees to take on entrepreneurial endeavors within the company had been left behind as Google became ruled by top-down mandates and consumed with replicating Facebook's success, Whittaker 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," Whittaker wrote in his blog post.

Google did not respond to a request for comment.

Whittaker, who is now partner development manager at Microsoft, according to his LinkedIn page, praised Eric Schmidt's deeds as CEO, while criticizing the changes that had taken place since Larry Page took the reins last year.

"Under Eric Schmidt ads were always in the background. Google was run like an innovation factory, empowering employees to be entrepreneurial through founder's awards, peer bonuses and 20% time," Whittaker wrote. "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."

But after Page became CEO, Google became a different place, said Whittaker: the company became determined to master "social" at all costs and laser-focused on ads, and the "trappings of entrepreneurship were dismantled."

"The days of old Google hiring smart people and empowering them to invent the future was gone," wrote Whittaker.

"Corporate intervention," in this case, meant rallying Google around Google+, Whittaker said, arguing this one-track mindset changed Google's internal culture, as well as its services.

Though Whittaker claimed in his blog post was that there "is no drama here, no tell-all," the terms of his departure -- and how that might color his take on Google -- are unclear. It's also worth noting that Whittaker chose a blog belonging to Microsoft, which has been an outspoken of Google, to share his criticisms of the web giant. As noted above, Whittaker is also now a Microsoft employee.

In a Google+ updated posted more than a month before his blog was published on Microsoft's site, Whittaker wrote, "There comes a time when all good things must end and my time at Google is one of them. This is not one of those 'Google let me down' rants, nor is it a 'I love this company, keep up the good work' farewell ... just a realization that even as my perf scores and profile within the company has risen my ability to lead has diminished." While Whittaker's Google+ comment might not have an included a "'Google let me down' rant," his recent blog is more in this vein.

Whittaker is the second Googler in less than six months to slam the company's social efforts in a public blog post.

Google engineer Steve Yegge wrote last October that Google+ was a "pathetic afterthought" and "knee-jerk reaction."

Google's vice president of social business Vic Gundotra defended Google+ at the recent South by Southwest conference, noting that the social site could improve all of Google's services and offered a more private alternative to Facebook, with better sharing options and less intrusive advertising.

"You can think of Google+ as Google 2.0. It's the next generation of Google," Gundotra said. "The old Google was siloed; your identity and how you share with your family was different across each product."

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