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Drew Vosburg
est. 1989
est. 1989


An open letter to +Steve Yegge in response to his accidental Google+ post

Your writing has inspired a lot of people, and encouraged IT in a good direction. I think that your points are valid, but I can also see why Google doesn't really care much about developing platforms. Here is why:

Google doesn't need to get customers, Google simply needs to get user data. Since user data can come from non-paying users instead of customers, they simply must provide a product that will generate high user data yeilds. Three excellent examples of this that are Android, Gmail, and Chrome.

Android is the most platformy of all Google products. However, the purpose is not truely to be a platform or to even provide an excellent phone experience. The ultimate goal is to collect user data. That will happen whenever users use an Android phone to go to websites, look up restaurants, check their email, or text their friends. The real purpose is to collect this information to sell later. The platform is a necessary component in order for Android to compete with iOS, which introduced the app model Google is following.

Chrome is somewhat a platform. Chrome OS is incentive to make Chrome a platform, thus the introduction of the Chrome App Store, but that hasn't taken off by any means, because in the end, it is simply to further the amount that users depend on the Chrome browser for web browsing, so that Google can sell their browsing information.

Gmail is the ultimate Google data-mining product. It reads users' emails to advertise right above them with relevant content. Gmail has nothing to do with third party extensibility, but rather, is clearly intended to get user data at the source, both coming in and going out. This is the stuff that Google is made of, large user base, and user-data-intensive products, like web browsers, operating systems, and email.

Google Maps was mentioned as a service with APIs that weren't well laid out on That is partially because Google Maps isn't as user-data-intensive when someone else is accessing the database. Some of the context is lost, making the information less valuable.

Google hasn't put much effort into Google+. Those of us with Diaspora* accounts know that Google essentially branded Diaspora*, renamed "aspects" to "circles," and added hangouts in order to make Google+. That didn't take much work, and even if it does fail, it wasn't at much cost to Google.

The Google model has been, if you generate enough products, you'll get enough elements to build a killer product. That's what Google Labs was all about. And so far, it's worked. Sure Buzz and Wave didn't work, and Google+ isn't for everyone. But that doesn't mean that Google will never get it right, even through blind shooting in the dark.

In the long run, yes, platforms are more valuable than straight up products. But so far, Google hasn't exactly been struggling without focusing on platform development. Unlike Facebook, Google can allow Google+ to die. They aren't depending on it, platform or product, to survive. Google is not a service company, and most certainly isn't a software development company. They are an information company, and the best way to generate that information is by high-volume data-intensive products like Gmail and Chrome.
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