One of Google’s long-time engineers, Ian Hickson, announced that he had left the company after 18 years. In a long and heartfelt post, Hickson described the most beautiful times in Googlefrom 2005 to today, at the same time launching ferocious attacks against the current management and advising the company on a decisive “change of pace”.
The engineer says he was “very lucky” to have experienced the early days of the company founded by Larry Page e Sergey Brin. He says that the managers were sincere with the staff and “ambitious experimentation“. He also explains that the “slogan”, real mantra“Don’t be evil” really matched the company vision.
The phrase, often the subject of ridicule by third parties, reflected the idea that Google should avoid morally or ethically questionable behavior while pursuing its business and technological goals. The idea was to certify Google’s commitment to integrity and ethics in all its operations.
Google was criticized too often, wrongly, in its first years of activity
According to Hickson much of the criticism that Google has received about Chrome e Search, particularly on alleged conflicts of interest with ads, were wildly off the mark. Not to mention the legal dispute started by a group of publishers over Google Books, which then saw the Mountain View company demonstrate its reasons in court by prevailing over the other party.
“I have often seen privacy advocates argue against Google’s proposals in ways that were distinctly harmful to users. Some of these conflicts have had lasting effects on the world at large; one of the most annoying is the prevalence of useless warnings about cookies that we have to deal with today“, observes the now former Google engineer.
Google executives, Hickson continues, were offering frank answers on a weekly basis or were transparent about their inability to do so (for example, for legal reasons or because some topics were too sensitive to discuss in depth). Eric Schmidt he regularly accompanied the entire company through board discussions.
The successes and failures of the various products were equally presented, with the successes celebrated and the failures critically examined with the aim of learn lessons rather than assigning blame. “The company had a clear vision and deviations from that vision were subject to explanation“, prosegue Hickson.
The move away from the approach oriented towards maximum transparency
Hickson says Google’s idea was to always do the right thing for the Web and for users, even if this might conflict with the company’s interests. In general, the objective pursued following the indications of Page, Brin and Schmidt was to “do the right thing“, without the desire to immediately satisfy the shareholders and therefore looking at the advantages that the company would obtain in the short and long term.
According to the former Google engineer, something began to change with the decision to Vic Gundotra to create “silos” within society. “Gundotra has begun reserving some buildings for the Google+ team only, a marked departure from the complete internal transparency of Google’s early years“, writes Hickson while appreciating the well-defined vision of the Indian manager.
And he claims that the Android team, the result of an acquisition, has never aligned itself with Google’s “culture”: “he focused more onpursuit of competition than on solving real user problems“.
Open complaint against Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google
Over time, Hickson continues in a crescendo of tones, “Google’s culture has eroded. Decisions went from being made to benefit users, to benefit Google, and then to benefit whoever was making the decision. Transparency has evaporated“. And he criticizes the decision to fire some of Google’s staff: “i layoffs were a mistake (…) caused by a short-sighted attempt to ensure that the share price continued to grow from quarter to quarter, instead of following Google’s old strategy of prioritizing long-term success, even if this led to short-term losses (the essence of the motto Don’t be evil)“.
The finger is pointed straight at you Sundar Pichaithe current CEO of Google, who would not have “interest in maintaining the cultural norms of Google’s early years“. Furthermore, Pichai – again according to Hickson – would be missing one leadership visionaria.
Hickson argues that it is not yet too late for “route change“even if time is passing quickly, and suggests shifting power”from the CFO’s office to someone with a clear long-term vision for how to use Google’s vast resources to deliver value to users“.
The evaluation of an individual or a position shared by other company employees?
Google currently employs more than 100,000 people, and Hickson’s complaints may simply reflect his personal views.
The engineer’s observations, however, are shared privately and publicly on social media from various current and “past” Google figures. Some employees express empathy with the feelings of Hickson, who is certainly not the first to criticize the decisions made at the company since Page and Brin took a step back.