October 13, 2011 at 11:29 AM EDT
Google+ Blasted From Within
Google software engineer's frank appraisal of Google+ gets out into the open -- but his concerns are legitimate for a network trying to compete with Facebook.

Google+Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) new social network, Google+, definitely has some nifty features. One that is at the core of the system is Circles, which allows you to control who sees your posts and comments. Of course, using that core feature might not be inherent to users — or even Google employees.

Company software engineer Steve Yegge made a post on the network blasting Google+ that was meant only for the Google internal Circle. Well, somehow he misfired and it became public (the social world can be a dangerous place). Yegge’s post was visceral, calling G+ a “pathetic afterthought” and a “knee-jerk reaction.” His rant actually goes on for more than 4,000 words.

While the situation is immediately embarrassing, this kind of debate is a good thing, and it is encouraging that Google allows it. After all, the company faces some serious threats, especially from Facebook. The social giant has been mostly taking away market share from laggards like Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) and AOL (NYSE:AOL), but eventually, Facebook will be trying to grab a bigger chunk from Google itself.

Yegge believes Google’s G+ response is just another symptom of the company’s failed strategy. He thinks there is too much focus on creating breakout products, which can be extremely hard to do on a consistent basis — it’s something Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) exceeds in, but few others do.

Instead, Yegge thinks Google should build a platform. He points out that this is what has made Facebook a powerhouse. By allowing for third-party development, it has created a thriving social media ecosystem, and companies like Zynga have emerged to make Facebook highly engaging.

And strong platforms can be difficult to disrupt. Just take a look at Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). Despite many attacks, its Windows and Office franchises remain supremely dominant — even after more than two decades.

But as for Google, it has a sprawling number of apps that mostly are loosely connected, which can make the user experience frustrating and confusing. And it also leaves the door open for competitors.

It’s important to remember that Facebook itself did not originally start as a platform. It was a few years after its launch that it moved in that direction. The same can be said about Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN). So Google still has time — and definitely has the resources — to make some changes to Google+. But as evidenced by Yegge’s insightful post, the company should have some sense of urgency considering the massive task ahead.

Tom Taulli is the author of “All About Short Selling” and “All About Commodities.” You can also find him at Twitter account @ttaulli. He does not own a position in any of the stocks named here.


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