Google has a bad smell

I used to work for Google.

I was an odd one, because I didn't like it much. I did like my coworkers and I learned a lot - which was enough to keep me there for 3 long years - but I mostly felt useless, insignificant, isolated and guilty about earning too much money. I hated living in the Google bubble of elitism, TGIF and secrecy. I proved to myself that I could do the job, and then I left.

Since leaving, I have been critical but usually defended them. My impression while I worked there, was that Google genuinely meant well and was doing good work. I left the company less cynical than I joined it. I may not have enjoyed the job, but the company earned my respect.

Now I find that's wearing off.

The company under Larry Page, with it's focus on social and Google+, has, for lack of a better term, started to smell bad.

I'm not going to dwell on details, but these are the smells that bother me:

  1. Google+ and social success being linked to employee bonuses
  2. The new GMail UI is (in my opinion) a big step back, but integrates with Google+
  3. Search Plus Your World is a worse search engine, but integrates with Google+
  4. Blogger is adding features to support "sweep it under the rug"-style political censorship

It smells like desperation. Loss of focus on the user. Weakness.

Don't get me wrong, Google are still leaps and bound better than Facebook, Apple, Microsoft or any major telco or media company. No other big name in mainstream tech has even come close to Google on civil liberties and giving back to the community.

But that is exactly what makes it so sad and worrying. Google was our champion, a beacon of hope that open source, a commitment to the user and a policy of "not being evil" could succeed and even lead the tech world. For a while, they did. Now it smells like they are losing ground on all those fronts.

I wonder how my old friends at Google feel about all this. Of course, since they are still trapped in the bubble, I don't really expect to find out any time soon. But I do wonder.

Tags: tech, privacy

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