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James Whittaker: Focus on Ads and 'Social' Destroying Google 236

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the that-annoying-meat-between-ad-and-wallet dept.
theodp writes "In June 2009, Google welcomed James Whittaker as its newest Test Director. In February 2012, Whittaker rejoined Microsoft. On Tuesday, Whittaker explained why he left Google: 'The Google I was passionate about,' Whittaker writes, '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 old Google was a great place to work. The new one? -1.' Welcome to the real world, quips CNET's Charles Cooper in response to Whittaker's still-awesome-even-if-a-tad-naive rant." More from from his post: "It turns out that there was one place where the Google innovation machine faltered and that one place mattered a lot: competing with Facebook ... Google could still put ads in front of more people than Facebook, but Facebook knows so much more about those people. Advertisers and publishers cherish this kind of personal information ... Larry Page himself assumed command to right this wrong. Social became state-owned, a corporate mandate called Google+. It was an ominous name invoking the feeling that Google alone wasn't enough."
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James Whittaker: Focus on Ads and 'Social' Destroying Google

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  • huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:03AM (#39351309) Homepage Journal

    So he moved back to Microsoft? Huh? Don't get it.

    Now he'll experience a "corporate mandate called $variable"
    where $variable = { "the cloud" , "Windows 8" , "whatever marketing thinks up next" }

    • Re:huh? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mike10027 (1475975) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:08AM (#39351349)
      True, TFA doesn't touch at all on why Microsoft -- just why not Google. I guess Microsoft doesn't have a new social media pony it's pushing on everyone at the company. In the battle of who's more of a technology company, Microsoft or Google, the winner is...the one that doesn't make its money from ads?
      • Re:huh? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by SeaFox (739806) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:20AM (#39351491)

        In the battle of who's more of a technology company, Microsoft or Google, the winner is...the one that doesn't make its money from ads?

        Wouldn't that be Apple in this case? (at least it makes less of its money on ads)

      • Re:huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Phics (934282) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:35AM (#39351617)
        In my youth, I moved back to a company I had left for a couple years. For me, it was simply a comfort thing - I was familiar with the policies, people, and surroundings. I'm not saying those aspects of the company were any good, and it turned out to be a terrible move; I was much happier elsewhere in the end. I'm also not saying that is why Mr. Whittaker returned, but humans tend to find some solace in familiarity - especially if the pay is good.
        • by jdgeorge (18767)

          I suspect he also learned that Microsoft really does care as much about testing as any major software company. It didn't stop them from producing Vista, but that disaster was due to forces beyond the control of the testing folks.

          It seems as if his experience at Google (not being able to influence Larry Page's new strategic focus) was not particularly better than at Microsoft, and Microsoft wanted an innovative leader in it's quality area. Good for them. Hopefully, his experience at Google will make him bett

        • by msobkow (48369)

          I've worked with a few ex-Microsoft employees over the year, including the CEO at the last company I worked for (he came up through the ranks to be one of their managers overseas.) The one thing I found surprising is not one of them complained about Microsoft as a place to work.

          And from the two Microsoft-trained managers I've worked for, I can see why -- they do a damn good job of training their managers to listen to people and to prioritize rationally with a solid understanding of the importance of tec

      • Re:huh? (Score:5, Funny)

        by Cid Highwind (9258) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @01:21PM (#39354665) Homepage

        I guess Microsoft doesn't have a new social media pony it's pushing on everyone at the company.

        ...yet!

        Never underestimate Microsoft's ability to be behind the curve in consumer services.

    • by rvw (755107)

      So he moved back to Microsoft? Huh? Don't get it.

      Now he'll experience a "corporate mandate called $variable"
      where $variable = { "the cloud" , "Windows 8" , "whatever marketing thinks up next" }

      Whatever marketing thinks up next? Marketing at Microsoft is just baffled at the size of the finger they gave to Google. It just showed up, and they're still looking into it with remote desktop.

    • by theurge14 (820596)

      Well, Microsoft is going to need someone to test the Metro UI on all their new ads and social features in Windows 8. He sounds like he has the experience.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by trancemission (823050)

      It is a case of better the devil you know, from what I read he was *expecting* Google to be a 'technology company that empowered its employees to innovate' - turns out they aren't....they are only interested in making money from information gained through their technology.

      His perception of Google has changed, his perception of Microsoft has little to do with this.....

      • Re:huh? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by BasilBrush (643681) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:43AM (#39351699)

        No, Google has changed in recent years. That's been obvious even from the outside. At one time I was a big supporter of Google, recommended their stuff to friends. A month or two I deleted my Google accounts, and avoid using Google as much as possible now.

        The change? It seemed they used to be dedicated to producing the best technology, and in making the ads that supported that as unobtrusive as possible. The "Do no evil" phrase was idealistic, but believable.

        Now, I feel that Google is dedicated to spying on us all. They have information on me that I don't understand how they got, and I resent them having it. I believe they've crossed the line into spyware. "Do no evil" is now a ridiculous joke.

        • Re:huh? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @10:10AM (#39351989)

          Do you have Facebook? If you do, you're living in denial.

        • by kidgenius (704962)
          So other than hosting your own mail and paying a domain registrar, what do you do for email now? Who do you consider better than google?
          • Re:huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by water-and-sewer (612923) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @10:48AM (#39352463) Homepage

            Pretty easy: first, pay for a non-free email account. I chose fastmail.fm and like it. If you are all, "waaa, I don't want to pay" then you will pay with something else - your data, in this case.

            2nd step: use an alternate search provider. I use DuckDuckGo. It's not perfect and sometimes I have to revert to Google, but it's better than getting sucked into the Google ecosystem.

            It's so easy to avoid getting sucked into the blackhole. You just steer around it before its gravitational pull (waaah, I want an Android phone) sucks you over the event horizon. Buh-bye.

          • by timftbf (48204)

            In what way is paying for your own domain and hosting your own email not a good answer? Why is an "other than" needed?

            • In what way is paying for your own domain and hosting your own email not a good answer? Why is an "other than" needed?

              I ran my own domain out of my basement for years, but gradually all the ISPs stopped letting me do that on an affordable connection. The amusing part is that they blocked my 100% uptime, 100% reliable, 100% spam-free mail servers and forced my mail traffic to proxy through their virus and spam riddled mail hubs in the name of fighting spam.

            • by kidgenius (704962)
              Because configuring a mail server and setting up spam filtering is a little excessive for a single email address.
        • Re:huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Ogive17 (691899) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @10:40AM (#39352351)
          My Google spying anecdote.

          A few years ago I got a Droid X phone, switching over from Blackberry. I had to create a gmail account (apparently I was one of the few without gmail) in order to register the phone. No big deal, I don't hand out that email to anyone.

          Somehow Google linked my youtube account (which was registered to a 15 year old hotmail account) with my new gmail account even though I had never used youtube on my phone. The only way I can conceived the match being made was from me being logged in on youtube from my home computer and checking hotmail from both home and my phone.

          It makes me very leery. If I ever run for public office (no plans to do so, just hypothetical) I'm sure someone would be able to look at my youtube viewing history.. pick out some questionable content, and use it for character assassination.

          Other than being a luddite, I think anyone in the public eye is going to be haunted by their internet history.
          • Re:huh? (Score:5, Informative)

            by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @11:36AM (#39353129) Homepage

            Hi, I work on the Google accounts team (on spam and security).

            I just want to clarify something. We don't merge accounts using non-explicit / ambient information like you are suggesting. I suspect what happened is that at some point, you used your Gmail account on YouTube and we noticed you already had a YouTube account (you were logged in to both). When YT was acquired it obviously had its own account system and over time, that has been integrated with the regular Google account system. As part of that accounts have been merged together. It may be that you don't remember this happening, but we definitely don't try and spot related accounts and merge them without some explicit user action.

            I'm not sure why you think people would be able to see your YouTube viewing history. That's a private part of your account, it's hard to imagine that ever changing. Unless your account gets hacked nobody else can see it, and we put a lot of effort in to try and stop account compromises (it's what I work on all day, in fact).

            Anyway, a lot of peoples concerns about privacy boil down to (a) transparency and (b) control. That's what BasilBrushes concerns seem to be about and it's completely understandable. The Dashboard (www.google.com/dashboard) might help. This stuff is discussed in the privacy principles [google.com] document, which is the official voice of the company on the topic. I actually think Google has got a lot better at these principles (transparency, control) over the last few years - we have made things like Chrome incognito mode, the Dashboard, the Ads Preferences Manager, added better security against hackers (no.1 privacy threat) etc. But peoples expectations have gone up even faster, so there's still lots of work to do.

            • Re:huh? (Score:4, Interesting)

              by VortexCortex (1117377) <(VortexCortex) ( ... -retrograde.com)> on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @12:27PM (#39353885)

              Hi, I'm User, from the Internet, and I'd just like you to know that I tried to keep my accounts separate so that getting banned from one of your services doesn't ban me from other services. During your Google+ Name Rage (where you banned people for not using their REAL NAME), my youtube account that I use to post Videos of my game studio's content (Which has a REAL name, just not an INDIVIDUAL's name) was somehow linked to my Google+ service -- I suspect I accidentally clicked a link to Google+ while using the Internet and signed into Youtube or Google+... Point being, I wasn't presented a page with a giant: "LINK THESE ACCOUNTS TOGETHER" button (which I never would have clicked, and such a thing should require re-authorisation).

              The aforementioned ridiculous ACCOUNT BANNING you did for Google+ caused me to lose access to Youtube, Gmail and Docs services. Way to fail being business friendly.... Now that Google has shown us the unpredictable and dangerous LIGHTNING that lives in their "cloud" I'm scared to even recommend your services to anyone.

              FYI: The sooner you STOP UNDERMINING OUR TRUST, the better.

              • Re:huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

                by marnues (906739) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @04:17PM (#39357169)
                FYI: The sooner everybody stops treating corporations as singular entities, the sooner we all have rational conversations. 'IamTheRealMike' probably completely agrees with you and is on your side. Alienating him hurts your efforts. All that screaming in your post just hurts my head too.
            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              I'm not sure why you think people would be able to see your YouTube viewing history. That's a private part of your account, it's hard to imagine that ever changing. Unless your account gets hacked nobody else can see it, and we put a lot of effort in to try and stop account compromises (it's what I work on all day, in fact).

              I'm not sure why you should retain that history. If you didn't retain it, it wouldn't matter as much if my account were hacked. That "nobody else can see it" (for now, until the money equation changes) comforts me not at all.

            • Re:huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

              by BasilBrush (643681) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:11PM (#39358359)

              No, my problem is that Google is spying on me. I was first alerted to it when Google+ suggested friend to me, and 2 of the suggestions were only linked to me because they are the authors of blogs that I visit from time to time. I don't visit them by searching on Google. They are not hosted on Google's Blogger. And I'd never posted any links from those blogs on my Google+ account.

              Then more recently Google was asking me a question about security, and presented me a list of all the searches I'd done on Google for the last X months. Well, that's not information that I believe Google ought to be storing, and at that point deleted my account, and switched to using non-Google services.

              THEN I found out that Google will continue to store my searches against my name even though I don't have an account any more.

              At one time "Don't be evil" meant something. Now Google is a creepy spyware company. I want nothing more to do with them.

    • by tnk1 (899206)

      He probably feels that when Google was doing the things that he thought they were doing, they would long-term, be a better company.

      However, he probably feels now that since there is much less of a difference between Google and Microsoft than he thought there was, he's going to bet on the model that's been around longer and is clearly successful, despite its missteps.

      That or he got bitchy when had a disagreement with the Google people, so he resigned and went back to somewhere he could get back into a job fa

    • by metacell (523607)

      He's got experience from a (serious) competitor, so I'm guessing Microsoft offered him really good conditions if he came back.

    • I think 'Metro' is the most likely. With the way it's been shoehorned into Windows 8, someone at Microsoft must be really desperate to build a unified UI style across their full product range. Which means it's only a matter of time until xbox gets it too.
    • by jythie (914043)
      I don't know about now, but Microsoft used to have a pretty impressive skunkworks going on. Lots of bright people working on innovative technology.. though it never seemed to cross over to their actual products. I remember speculation that it was just a way to keep such people out of the hands of competition, kinda like paying farmers to not farm.... it isn't because you want a bunch of dirt, you just want less food on the market....
  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:05AM (#39351323)

    Who thinks they would have made that push into automated cars if they had the choice to rethink that today?

    The whole company is getting focused on profits rather then innovation.

    That might be valid. However, it might also be possible that the best way to ensure future profits is to take risks now on new ideas.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:18AM (#39351465)

      To keep the profits growing, you have to innovate because the copycats come fast; especially with a non-tangible product - like everything software related.

      If they were strictly focused on profits, they'd be making cuts exclusively to boost their bottom line - like what 90% of corporate America has been doing in the last few years. But that's pretty much a one shot deal - it's a just a bump in profits: not growth. Hence, that is one of the reasons (Asian operations is another for some) why corporate America has record profits -cuts mostly people. Now, we have this very high unemployment rate that for the life of me, I don't see how it's going to abate anytime soon - regardless of who's in the Whitehouse next year.

    • by Zocalo (252965) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:41AM (#39351675) Homepage
      Actually, I think they are very much interested in innovation, just perhaps not in areas that might seem quite so obvious. Why else would they hire Regina Dugan [allthingsd.com], the outgoing director of DARPA? Somehow, I don't think it's going to be for the use of UAVs as an advertisement delivery mechanism...
      • We'll see, I hope you're right.

        We count upon large corporations for doing the research that moves our society forward. So it is sad when they lose all ambition to innovate.

        • by tqk (413719)

          We count upon large corporations for doing the research that moves our society forward.

          Well, there's your mistake. Nowadays, we count on large corporations to outsource, litigate, and obsess over their stock price, not innovate.

          I count on the two smart, ambitious guys in a garage to innovate.

          • You're not getting advances in genetic engineering, cpu design, or a thousand other fields out of a garage.

            Again, it took google dumping billions into that whole automated car project to get it to work. And then we have Richard Brandson with his Virgin Galactic nonsense... we do depend on these institutions to innovate. Hate on them all you like but like a group of men sitting around dissing women... or vice versa... understand that at the end of the day you need them. You will come back to them and you wil

      • Actually, I think they are very much interested in innovation, just perhaps not in areas that might seem quite so obvious. Why else would they hire Regina Dugan, the outgoing director of DARPA? Somehow, I don't think it's going to be for the use of UAVs as an advertisement delivery mechanism...

        I think Regina Dugan's reputation at DARPA relates directly to the focus Page has been seeking at Google with his "more wood behind fewer arrows" approach (which has, no doubt, been disruptive to many Googlers and is

        • by Zocalo (252965)
          Yeah, that's the speculation being put forward - that she'll be working with Sergey Brin on the GoogleX projects, which is a pretty obvious assumption given what DARPA do. The bit that struck a chord with me though was that she has a suck it and see approach - "Failure isn’t the problem, it’s the fear of failure.” was the quote to All Things D - which aligns very well with Google Labs' way of working. Try it, and if we get the next Backrub or GMail then that's just great, if not scrap it
          • The big question is, will she be required to work to the Google+ Social Media agenda or free to pursue whatever bluesky projects she wants?

            The thing I've seen her most praised for in her work at DARPA has been specifically shifting away from blue-sky projects to projects that rapidly provide value to business end of the organization the research arm serves (warfighters, for DARPA.)

            I can't imagine that she would be brought to Google to drive more effort behind pure blue-sky projects, rather than finding a wa

    • by delt0r (999393)
      Companies that don't have profits, don't stick around to "innovate" anything. Seriously, it is the reason for a companies existence. Not to give you free stuff.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:06AM (#39351333)

    Exciting startup with a couple of people does exciting things, attracts excited developers because they can do exciting things.
    Over time company gets big, has to worry about shareholders and lots of internal politics with growing levels of management.
    Company is grown up, things slow down, life becomes boring, bored developers seeking excitement move on to next startup.

    Are there any exceptions?

    • by JAlexoi (1085785)
      But the "bored developers seeking excitement move on to next startup" does not equate moving from Google to Microsoft.
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:08AM (#39351359) Homepage

    Google could have become the every man's corporate replacement for systems like Autonomy and Endeca. They could have gotten super aggressive at making a turn key, highly scalable search product that everyone from a 20 employee company to a 200,000 employee company could use. They have the talent to make a product that can do that. Instead, they never really went hard after the enterprise market where they could have not only revolutionized things, but have left themselves fairly independent as a whole business on advertising.

    The sad part is that they probably could have beaten Autonomy like a rented mule because Autonomy's documentation is pretty bad and not easily accessible to people who aren't firmly on the Autonomy reservation.

    • Google wants access to all the data, and that means selling as few turnkey systems as possible, because they want more people to outsource, which will inevitably lead to many of them outsourcing to google, at which point google can sniff through their data for their own purposes, whether nefarious or not.

    • by dzfoo (772245) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @10:09AM (#39351973)

      They didn't miss that opportunity, they dismissed it. They went on the path of becoming a search appliance, back when they were trying to find a stable business model. The 20% was also a way to fund research and development into new or orthogonal markets, and it made their employees happy to boot.

      For a while it all looked good and the strategy seemed solid.

      Then the advertising money started flooding their profit margins. All of a sudden, it became clear which direction they should go.

      From that day on, they became a one-trick pony.

      It's not that they sucked at everything else, it's that nothing that they have produced so far could match the rate at which advertising fills their coffers. There was no way to return to being an engineering or technology company if by doing so they had to lower their profits.

      It didn't matter if they could succeed, they needed to make more money!

      Eventually, this brutal mentality trickled down to the engineers and the rest of the crew. It's clear to most people now that, for all their perks and occasional technical brilliance, Google is no longer a technology company.

                  -dZ.

    • They could have gotten super aggressive at making a turn key, highly scalable search product that everyone from a 20 employee company to a 200,000 employee company could use. They have the talent to make a product that can do that.

      In fact they do make a product like that; its called the Google Search Appliance [wikipedia.org].

  • by mounthood (993037) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:10AM (#39351383)

    If Google can't compete with MySpace they're FINISHED!!!!1!!

  • by yog (19073) * on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:11AM (#39351389) Homepage Journal

    They have a bunch of failed experiments--Buzz, Wave, Health, Google wifi, and probably 100 others that died in the vetting rooms at Google.

    They also have some stunning successes that started out as private projects within the company--Gmail, notably.

    That's not a sign of a dying company--it's a refreshing sign of a company that dares to experiment and isn't afraid to fail occasionally.

    So this guy retreats back to a safe, old-school software corporation--Microsoft. 25 years ago, Microsoft must have been an exciting place to work. Today, it's stodgy, rigid, backward thinking, corporate-focused, a follower and not a leader in most areas. He'll feel right at home in his safe, easy corporate 9-5 job.

    Google reminds me of the old AT&T Bell Labs organization, where you were expected to put 25-50% of your time into your own projects. It wasn't for everybody; some people need to be basically told what to do 8 hours a day, while other people could feel free to create amazing (or stupid) things, and management just knew that sooner or later something useful would result.

    The real question is, how does a large corporation preserve its startup mentality. You really can't, but at least you can try to make the place fun for people who are chasing new ideas all the time. Me, I'd work for GOOG any time. It would be a blast being around so many smart people!

    • by Daetrin (576516) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:28AM (#39351567)
      Uh, i'm sorry, the rants about Google innovating too much are down the hall [slashdot.org]? Whittaker is complaining that Google _used_ to be innovative, but now they're not. He's claiming that they used to let the engineers spend 20% of their time on whatever they thought was cool, but now there's an ultimatum (it's not clear if it's official or not) that everything has to be subservient to the goal of pushing "social" and "sharing" in general and Google+ in particular or it gets thrown under the bus. He's not complaining that they're innovating too much, he's complaining that things like Google Labs and other experimental projects have been killed.

      I know that not RTFA is considered the norm, but how did you manage to interpret even the blurb as the exact opposite of what it said? Or did you just assume that if two different parties complained about google within 24 hours then they must be complaining about the same thing?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You're correct, that's exactly what the article is saying. And the gp is correct about MSFT.

        As a (recent) ex-employee I can testify that there is definitely nothing exciting or innovative about MSFT now, coupled with the age-old problem of thinking if it compiles then ship it (that's why I left). As far as products go, they're stuck in the backwaters of stale tech and middle management seems to be ok with it as long as the big dollar enterprise contracts are renewed.

        Of course the research division is fine

        • by Daetrin (576516)
          Well i certainly agree that in terms of actually _producing_ new technology Microsoft is pretty far behind the curve. However it does seem like Whittaker feels that currently Google is actually suppressing innovation in areas that it doesn't believe will help it in the social/Google+ arena. It is possible that he feels he'd rather work at a company that does interesting research that never sees the light of day than at a company that he feels has become to focused on "directed" research intended to produce
        • Google+ is awesome, it's a great way to talk to Google employees.

      • He's claiming that they used to let the engineers spend 20% of their time on whatever they thought was cool, but now there's an ultimatum (it's not clear if it's official or not) that everything has to be subservient to the goal of pushing "social" and "sharing" in general

        BTW, this is not true. I work for Google, have a 20% project that has nothing to do with social or sharing (in fact it's an open source Bitcoin related project [google.com]), and before this one I had a different 20% project which now has a team of two

        • by Daetrin (576516)
          Well this isn't the first time i've heard a Google employee (ex or otherwise) complain about Google+ distorting Google's priorities. Given the size of the company and the fact that, as you say, the 20% thing is rather vaguely defined, i expect that the perspective of the average Googler on what is allowed/encouraged in that regard varies a lot depending on what area of the company they're in and who they report to. And certainly Whittaker was reporting to a very different set of managers than the "common jo
    • If Google reminds you of Bell Labs, that is a very bad omen for Google. Last I heard, Bell Labs only had four scientists remaining on their staff, and it no longer engages in basic research, only doing work in immediately marketable areas. If Google is Bell Labs, maybe Whittaker chose the right time to leave.
  • by O('_')O_Bush (1162487) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:14AM (#39351425)
    Man goes to a company with a delusion purported by tech media, saw the reality, then left because reality didn't match the delusion.

    Happens all the time. Move along.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:16AM (#39351441)

    Google has gone nuts with the ads. A few years ago there were plenty of text ads: nice and non-intrusive ones, but noticeable. Then they moved to images and then flash! It used to be the innocent child of the web, now it is the creepy old man hanging around the playground. I have been gradually moving away from their products - my default search engine is duckduckgo - but gmail still has me by the balls. Its only a matter of time though.

    • To answer your question: AdBlock

      I rarely ever see ads on any of Google services. When I do it is usually once every few years when I do a 100% clean install of Firefox.

      Last time this happened I was SHOCKED by how many ads it filters out.

      My guess is that if AdBlock and similar extensions did not exist Google would have hit the upper level of Ad tolerance among its users long ago.

  • by nweaver (113078) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:29AM (#39351571) Homepage

    Google should be all about advertising, because that is their only business which makes money: They made $35 billion or so last year on advertising, and $1.3B on everything else . Assuming 1 Billion on-line people, thats $35 a year for every man, woman, and child on the Internet.

    And the way for more effective advertising is more effective stalking, err, profiling of people. Google is very good about tracking its users when there are advertisements, but was losing out to Facebook on non-advertising pages, thus the advent of +1.

    It also explains a huge amount of the change in Google's privacy policy: before they would silo data, but now its all-inbounds. If its beneficial for them to data-mine your email (or email sent TO you from gmail users), including paid email accounts and to correlate it to the advertising tracking cookie for DoubleClick, they now can do it. Even services like Cloud Storage and App Engine are under Google's privacy policy. Fun, hu?

    "Its hard to believe in a company that says 'Don't Be Evil' when they are busy firing a death ray"

  • by cwgmpls (853876) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:39AM (#39351645) Journal
    Bell Labs, PARC, Cray Research, etc. Companies start with great innovation, then Wall Street forces the to focus on near-term profits instead. Ads are where the quick profits are, so of course Google will focus on ads. If history is any indicator, this is the early beginning of the end for Google as we knew it.
  • by alen (225700) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:42AM (#39351695)

    the internet of the late 20th century and the first few years of the last decade was you go find the information you want. Google flourished because they were able to organize it better to make life easier for you.

    Facebook, twitter and the rest of social is the new internet. You "like" or follow brands and then read the stream of their updates/news feed. sort of like a custom RSS feed. the point is that you no longer find the information, you are fed a stream of data. just like TV of the 20th century where you sit in front of a box and consume the content.

    this is where google is having problems. the whole idea of fighting spam in gmail was to force those companies to use google for advertising. Yes, all the shady loan companies and no prescription drug companies used google almost 10 years ago to advertise. but with SEO the spam problem is coming back and the only way to solve it seems to be social where people crowd source the content filtering.

    that's the whole point of Plus, to filter the content. but lately Plus is crap as well. Just a bunch of bloggers/internet oprahs and you are supposed to comment on how cool they are when they post something

    • the internet of the late 20th century and the first few years of the last decade was you go find the information you want. Google flourished because they were able to organize it better to make life easier for you.

      No, before Adwords Google was a modest sized company with decent growth - no Yahoo! or MSN, but still a rather decent third place. Then, in 2000, came Adwords. And then Google 'flourished', at least in the sense of cash flow... which blinded everyone (even Google itself) to reality - they were still a distant third in terms of eyes on their own pages.

      Then along came Facebook, and beat Google and everyone else at their own game. Not only garnering more eyeballs, but also getting more time on the page per eyeballs, *and* gathering more data allowing for more accurate (and more profitable) advertising.

      Facebook, twitter and the rest of social is the new internet. You "like" or follow brands and then read the stream of their updates/news feed. sort of like a custom RSS feed. the point is that you no longer find the information, you are fed a stream of data. just like TV of the 20th century where you sit in front of a box and consume the content.

      That, fed by geek hubris, is a popular mythperception. It makes the geeks feel better about themselves, and gives the pundits something to holler about to endear themselves to the technorati... but it's bullshit. If you actually watch things like Yahoo Buzz [yahoo.com] and Google Trends [google.com] you see the daily ebb and flow of people seeking information. Yeah, the shallow readers will only see the shallow people searching out Hollywood buzz, but discerning readers following them over time will note the searches for more serious information as well.

      What you, and other shallow readers miss is that there are two kinds of information people use the web to seek. The first is their 'daily dose'. News on their favorite sports teams, their favorite bloggers latest posting, sales at their favorite stores, following the latest trends etc... etc... That's why (among other things) RSS feeds were invented. One stop for everything. (Hold on, more on that in a minute.) Millions of people search daily for these, and thus they dominate search trends - most of the time. The second is "situational searches", what do if your 1996 Taurus breaks down?, what do these purple spots on your forearm mean?, how to cut a rabbet without a tablesaw?.... Literately an infinity of different detailed searches, with millions of people each searching for millions of different things. These, they don't show up in 'top results', misleading those who mistakenly take top search results for the whole of the search universe. Though the hints have always been there for those with eyes to see... Like the guy who sued google over the ranking of his flower shop. Or JC Penney's being slapped by Google for their misleading methods of getting to the top of their categories.

      The other thing missed by the shallow and short of memory is that the portal, one stop for everything, has been the Holy Grail of the commercial internet since practically Day One. Even Google has tried their hand at this early on, first by making their site(s) easy to use by introducing a single username/password for all their services. Later, they introduced Google Homepage (since rebranded as iGoogle) to the great joy of the geek community. ("Now we can use Google instead of Yahoo! or MSN!" Oh, the irony - since much of the same community derided portals.) Alongside that came their RSS reader, Google Sites, Google Business, Picasa, etc... etc... Ever more services and sites trying to keep eyeballs on Google's ads and trying to gain even more personal information to more accurately target those ads.

      this is where google is having problems.

  • by kaizendojo (956951) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:43AM (#39351709)
    I use for reverb when recording.
  • by Oswald McWeany (2428506) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:44AM (#39351721)

    When Google took over search engines- there were other companies at play- but no-one had an emotional attachment to them.

    Now Google wants to take over social media- but Facebook is entrenched. It's different than conquering the search world because Facebook has an emotional value for people- and the less technical people that anchor it are less likely to switch than the early adopters of the internet that switched to Google's search engine.

    Going social and creating Google+ was a good idea too late for Facebook. If they wanted to do it they should have done it before every non-techie auntie and granny had it.

    (I still refuse any social network of that ilk)

    • by schlesinm (934723)

      When Google took over search engines- there were other companies at play- but no-one had an emotional attachment to them.

      Now Google wants to take over social media- but Facebook is entrenched. It's different than conquering the search world because Facebook has an emotional value for people- and the less technical people that anchor it are less likely to switch than the early adopters of the internet that switched to Google's search engine.

      Facebook doesn't have an emotional value for people. Facebook has all the friends that people want to share things with while Google+ doesn't. People have no problem switching social networks, but they are not going to do so unless there is a reason to switch and people are there. Google hasn't filled either of those criteria.

    • hen Google took over search engines- there were other companies at play- but no-one had an emotional attachment to them.

      Now Google wants to take over social media- but Facebook is entrenched.

      Google doesn't want to "take over social media". Google wants to retain its position in online advertising. Social media position is a means, not an ends.

    • by tomhath (637240)

      there were other companies at play

      The other companies were doing a terrible job at useful search though. Result placement was sold to the highest bidder, some were open about it [smithfam.com] but most pretended to rank results by relevance. Google stepped into the market with a search engine that did what people wanted and blew everyone else away.

      Their problem now is that when you know a lot about the person doing the search, building a reasonably good search engine is pretty easy. Facebook has the potential to eat Google's lunch.

      • by cellocgw (617879)

        Their problem now is that when you know a lot about the person doing the search, building a reasonably good search engine is pretty easy. Facebook has the potential to eat Google's lunch.
        I beg to disagree. I have yet to see any 'targeted ad' tools successfully present new and appropriate ads to me. Ad placement is marginally better done than, say, Amazon's useless 'recommended for you' page. I suspect it'll take another giant step in AI for anything I do, write, or visit on Facebook to be translatable i

  • Reading Charles Cooper's banal and juvenile rant reminded me of why I never read C|Net. Now I have to start looking at where links from /. articles go. :-P
  • Immature. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by xyourfacekillerx (939258) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @10:00AM (#39351907)
    The CNet reply was immature, scarcely germane to the highlighted quotes to which Cooper was trying to respond, and very repetetive. I can't believe I read the entire thing. There's nothing wrong with lamenting a company for losing its character and transforming into something not resembling its former self. We all do this every day, almost every hour. "Things just aren't as good as they once were". Unless you're 15 years old, that sentiment rings true for most aspects of our lives. Let's face it, guy is just ticked this ex-Googler went to MS. So sick of this anti-MS bullshit. I use it and I get along just fine. You don't use it, you get a long just fine. It's not a fucking religious war here people, for God's sake we're supposed to be more intelligent and civil than the rest of the school, but we spend all our time in rant wars about god damn software we don't even use??
    • Re:Immature. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by xyourfacekillerx (939258) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @10:17AM (#39352063)
      I know reply to my own post but this quote from Whittaker,

      When I search for “London pub walks” I want better than the sponsored suggestion to “Buy a London pub walk at Wal-Mart.”

      This is the single reason I almost never use Google anymore. Ten pages of links like THAT before something relevant comes along. Yahoo used to find exact quote matches in pages from 2002. Google is under the impression that if it's not RECENT and it's not visited by 1 million web crawlers or 1 billion naive people who don't realize a search result is an ad until after they clicked it, well then it shouldn't be returned as a search result at all. I was "researching" the effects of amphetamines on DNA/RNA mutations (want to have a kid, don't want to have an autisitic kid, nevermind the details) and I found nothing but links to paywalls on Google. Why did google give me a direct exerpt from the page which, once I click, does not contain that exerpt without a fee?? Fuck that! I used Yahoo and then Bing and I have a veritable library of PDF's on the subject, scientific peer reviewed publications from 1984 through 2011, and I'm still sifting through (then I found out my local university has all this stuff in its Reserved books section, oh welll...) (and I realize now my 2 years on Adderall won't likely be a deterrant to my choice to try to have a kid)

      Google. Sucks. It hasn't been useful to me since 2009 or so. If ads are its business, it's not getting it from me, and that's because it isn't offering me anything in return.
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      "Things just aren't as good as they once were". Unless you're 15 years old, that sentiment rings true for most aspects of our lives.

      Actually, that's a middle aged thing. When I look back I see going to the outhouse when visiting my grandparents, having a TV dinner take half an hour to cook because there was no microwave oven, having three blurry, ghosty, black and white channels on the 19 inch TV set, no remote control, no VCR or DVR, no computers, no cell phones, no CrystaLens implants, young men (but not

  • Whittaker explained why he left Google: 'The Google I was passionate about,' Whittaker writes, 'was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate.

    Whittaker rejoined Microsoft.

    I'm not trying to discredit anything he's said, but how is Microsoft better than Google? (or vice versa?)
    You just switched from one corporate entity to another :/

    • Re:The Punchline (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dzfoo (772245) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @10:22AM (#39352107)

      Because, love them or hate them, Microsoft is a software company trying to apply engineering to diverse software problems.

      Ultimately, they make their money through the sale of products, so their interests tend to align with their users'.

      Google, on the other hand is an advertising company trying to apply engineering to, um, data mining algorithms; and acquiring start-up companies for the purpose of increasing data collection and improve the targeting of ads.

      Ultimately, they make their money through better and more targeted advertising, so their interests tend to align with those of advertisers'.

            -dZ.

    • If he joined Microsoft Research, they do a lot of amazing things. I wish I worked over there. Granted I don't know where in Microsoft he went. Though working at Microsoft in general I hear is actually a rather nice experience save for a few departments. (I have a friend who works there and is quite happy)

  • There aren't too many organizations public or private left in the world, that can replicate Google's indexing capabilities. That index has unimaginable untapped value and it needs to be opened up (unlimited api access). It's value can never be tapped by a couple hundred engineers sitting inside Google. Giving a small group within Google complete access to it, is equivalent to only giving a couple scientists access to human DNA data. I hope they find a way of opening it up before the regulators do. If there
    • by Animats (122034)

      There aren't too many organizations public or private left in the world, that can replicate Google's indexing capabilities.

      It's not necessary to have a company the size of Google to do Google's web search. CPU power and disk space have been increasing faster than the amount of content on the web. Indexing the web isn't all that big a job any more. Cuil, despite their problems, did it with about $20 million, 50 people and about 1000 servers. Their relevance algorithm was terrible and their crawler hit the same pages too often, and by the time they had those fixed, it was too late for them. But they did index all the pages they

  • Personally I think that breaking stuff that used to work [lawrenceperson.com] is destroying Google...

  • by Ngarrang (1023425) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @10:13AM (#39352025) Journal

    ...is that now they are making interfaces changes that make no sense, or add little value over the previous interface. Google has taken a page from FaceBook and begun pushing some horrible page design onto unsuspecting users. And no amount of complaint helps. Their support just laughs because they know there are no other real options to run to.

  • by mcmonkey (96054) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @10:21AM (#39352095) Homepage

    Google could still put ads in front of more people than Facebook, but Facebook knows so much more about those people.

    Knowing nothing of James Whittaker other than what is in the summary, and having not RTFA, I'll assume he is a very intelligent and successful person.

    He is also missing the obvious (and he's not the only one).

    Facebook knows more of what people want other people to know. Google knows about what is really going on with people. People lie in surveys, whether it's to say what they want to be true or what they think is expected. Facebook is like a survey you create yourself.

    Facebook has your holiday photos, knows you've been to an island, like partying on the beach. Google knows you're reading up on herpes treatments.

    Maybe Facebook knows you're married. Google knows you're trying to find a divorce attorney.

    If Google is relying on + to compete with Facebook, it has already lost the battle.

    • If Google is relying on + to compete with Facebook, it has already lost the battle.

      This relies on a misconception of what Google+ is. Google+ isn't a distinct set of pages on Google that presents a Facebook like interface (though that's part of it, though its rely the tip of the iceberg.) As Google reps have said many times, Google+ is "the next version of Google", and the focus for Google+ is integration of data across Google services and integration of social features with existing Google services.

      So, whi

    • by DarkOx (621550)

      I would not underestimate Facebook in such away. Look how far and wide their little buttons, and such are spread. Also remember beacon, it might not go by that name anymore because it got politicized but the technology is still there in various forms. To say nothing of "Facebook login" which obviously creates all kinds of track-ability for people who use it.

      They can certainly track you if your logged in, probably track you when you are not in many cases even if its with a little less certainty. They mig

  • If increasingly the currency of the digital world is information aggregation, collection, and targeting, won't people eventually start to realize that *this* is their valuable asset and they should be compensated for giving it up, assume control in some meaningful way of their online persona?

    I know there are several startups trying to move in this direction, and I don't know if any of them have it figured out yet, but it seems that Facebook's blunt approach and Google's ham-handed attempts should eventually

  • I'd put a billion dollars and 1000 devs on taking Open Office and making it way better than MS Office, and making it work seemlessly with Google Docs and GMail. This would steal Microsoft's main cash cow.

    Why the hell aren't they doing this?

    • I'd put a billion dollars and 1000 devs on taking Open Office and making it way better than MS Office, and making it work seemlessly with Google Docs and GMail. This would steal Microsoft's main cash cow. Why the hell aren't they doing this?

      Because Microsoft offers no meaningful competition for Google in areas where the latter earns 99% of its income (i.e. ads); so why should Google start an all-out war? what's the goal?

      • by LS (57954)

        Google already charges for Google Apps, which is clearly in direct competition with Microsoft, with over 4 million customers. But they are half-assing it, which is precisely why they are not making much income off of it. I want the benefits of the web (only one version instead of multiple uncontrolled copies flying about; real-time collaboration; version control; history; permissions control) in a native app (fast, feature-rich, offline). Why is that so hard to grasp? If someone came out with an amazing

  • by lwriemen (763666)

    Considering the source company, it's kind of hard to say this isn't more about spreading FUD over Google's ability to offer exciting new products, than it is about telling how things really are.

  • My problem with Google's attempt to be "social" its that it makes their already spam-infested search results even worse, and it's difficult to opt-out. [lee-phillips.org] With all the effort that they claim to expend in fighting spam, why is it still so easy to game their system? [lee-phillips.org]

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