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Google coder lashes out at company's failings

High-profile blogger and Google coder Steve Yegge isn't best pleased with his paymaster's attempt at a social networking platform, blasting it as a "pathetic afterthought" in an accidentally public rant.

The diatribe, posted by Yegge to Google+ late last night, was never meant for public consumption. "It was intended to be an internal post, visible to everybody at Google, but not externally," he explains (opens in new tab) in a follow-up post. "But as it was midnight and I am not what you might call an experienced Google+ user, by the time I figured out how to actually post something I had somehow switched accounts."

While Yegge has taken down his original post - despite, he is keen to point out, Google's internal PR staff pointing out that they wanted to avoid anyone thinking he was being censored - his scathing summary of Google's social networking push has been copied and pasted across the web, driving a debate which looks unlikely to end any time soon.

Initially, Yegge is kind to his employer. "I was at Amazon for about six and a half years, and now I've been at Google for that long. One thing that struck me immediately about the two companies - an impression that has been reinforced almost daily - is that Amazon does everything wrong, and Google does everything right."

Pretty soon, however, the gloves come off, and Yegge accuses Google of an inability to understand platforms. "The Google+ platform is a pathetic afterthought," Yegge wrote. "We had no API at all at launch, and last I checked, we had one measly API call. One of the team members marched in and told me about it when they launched, and I asked: 'So is it the Stalker API?' She got all glum and said 'Yeah.' I mean, I was joking, but no... the only API call we offer is to get someone's stream. So I guess the joke was on me.

"Google+ is a knee-jerk reaction, a study in short-term thinking, predicated on the incorrect notion that Facebook is successful because they built a great product," Yegge bemoaned. "Our Google+ team took a look at the aftermarket and said: 'Gosh, it looks like we need some games. Let's go contract someone to, um, write some games for us.' Do you begin to see how incredibly wrong that thinking is now? The problem is that we are trying to predict what people want and deliver it for them.

"You can't do that. Not really. Not reliably. There have been precious few people in the world, over the entire history of computing, who have been able to do it reliably. Steve Jobs was one of them. We don't have a Steve Jobs here. I'm sorry, but we don't."

Yegge went on to attack Google's developer portal, accusing it of looking "childish" and consisting entirely of "paltry" APIs designed for internal use. "Don't get me wrong about Google+," he added. "They're far from the only offenders. This is a cultural thing. What we have going on internally is basically a war, with the underdog minority Platformers fighting a more or less losing battle against the Mighty Funded Confident Producters."

Yegge's fat-fingered posting has generated a tide of commentary, with a wealth of responses to its reposting by Rip Rowan - with, it is claimed, full permission from Yegge himself. "Hopefully Steve will not experience any negative repercussions from Google about this," Rowan writes. "On the contrary, he deserves a promotion."

The full, scathing, six-year-boiling rant can be read over on Google+ (opens in new tab). monitors all leading technology stories and rounds them up to help you save time hunting them down.