Rasmussen: I’m joining Facebook and Google wasn’t “patient” on Wave


blog Fascinating interview here by the Sydney Morning Herald with outgoing Googler Lars Rasmussen on why he’s joining Facebook and his thoughts on the failed Google Wave project, which he was a core part of. The key points:

Why he’s joining Facebook:

“It feels to me that Facebook may be a sort of once in a decade type of company … compelling personal pitch [from Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg”.

On Google Wave:

“We were not quite the success that Google was hoping for, and trying to persuade them not to pull the plug and ultimately failing was obviously a little stressful … It takes a while for something new and different to find its footing and I think Google was just not patient.”

Sorry, I don’t buy that. Google Wave was a great idea, poorly executed, as I have previously opined.

Personally I feel Rasmussen will be disappointed with his Facebook career after a few years. Fundamentally, Google is a much more open company than Facebook, and engineers thrive on nothing if not openness. At Google, Rasmussen had the luxury of being able to focus on the common good — at least partly. Think of the way that you can embed Google Maps in any other site, for example, or the open Google Wave server.

Facebook, however, is nothing if not the internet’s biggest walled garden. If you work there, you have to be conscious that you’re not really attempting to “change the world”, you’re actually attempting to further a corporate future. It’s not a nice company, as we’ve previously documented, and I think Rasmussen will eventually come to regret his choice.

This departure also represents yet another example of the Australian brain drain to Silicon Valley. To those who say we don’t need to build Facebooks or Googles in Australia … this is what happens when we don’t — our finest engineers go overseas for larger challenges.

Image credit: Charlie Brewer, Creative Commons, Google


  1. You don’t think Facebook is trying to change the world? Not sure which world you’re living in, but Facebook is doing for the internet use what Microsoft did for PC use: bringing it to the masses. And if you don’t think Both companies are out to “further a corporate future” – if you don’t believe that you’ve been drinking from the Google kool-aid fountain a bit too regularly.

    • *cough*

      Firstly, the internet already was for the masses. Secondly, you haven’t really addressed my point that Facebook is in fact not really the internet as we know it — more a massive walled garden attempting to control and corral all of everyone’s personal data. Does any other internet platform do that? Not quite like Facebook, no.

      And as for Google … I’d say that yes, there are a variety of different objectives at Google that have nothing to do with just making money. That’s potentially part of their problem as a company right now. But for the staff, it’s more than great.

      And yes, you’re completely right, I drink from the Google Kool-aid. I’m nothing but a Google junkie. Wait, why did I criticise Wave here then?


    • “You don’t think Facebook is trying to change the world?”
      How many stars would you give “the social network” ;) I liked it…4 stars.

  2. I gotta agree with Renai here. As an employee, I’d choose google over facebook any day. To be honest, there’s an awful lot of companies that I’d choose over facebook… I mean, nobody really takes googles ‘don’t be evil’ seriously, but facebook is on completely the opposite end of that particular scale…

  3. The internet might have been *ready* for and accessible by the masses, but Facebook has drastically increased engagement in the non-tech crowd. And of course Facebook is the internet as we know it, just as a closed PHPBB forum is the internet. Walled gardens have always existed, it’s just that this one is particularly huge.

    Google are all about making money – it’s just that the way they do it is less direct. Any product that gets more people on the web for longer gets Google more eyeballs. They’re not doing these things purely for the greater good – its because the greater good happens to benefit them too. That’s an awesome thing for everyone, but it doesn’t mean that Google aren’t motivated primarily by profits.

    • I think you need to ask yourself, Ben, whether what Facebook has done is good. In many ways the company is the antithesis of many of the ideals the internet has stood for — just accepting its corporate behaviour and technical non-standards is not good enough, in my book.

      And if you’ve spent any time at Google talking to the staff (as I have), I think you’ll agree that the company has many more aims than just making money.

      • Is the world a better place with Facebook than without it? Definitely, IMO. It’s massively improved the way people are able to manage relationships with a vastly larger group of people.

        And what are the technical non-standards you’re talking about? The open API? The HTML-compliant site that can be viewed on pretty much any device? The free signup? The ability to freely create apps?

        I’m no Facebook fanboi, honestly. I hardly use it. But I see the enormous value it adds to my non-geek friends. Facebook-bashing is fashionable, just like MS-bashing was/is. But, as with MS, it fails to take into account the incredible value the company has added and the amount that it has pushed technology adoption forward.

  4. If I had a choice i would pick Google as a place to work and I think both have and are contributing in different ways. facebook is for the masses in much the same way google search is. google however is so much broader a service provider, its in so many things and always looking for new ones to get involved in.

    In terms of variety and overall contribution, Google is far ahead of the Facebook for people who have a technical bias, but for the masses, facebook is what they log into when they get home.

    Ask the everyday person what google does and they will tell you search, because that is all they know.

  5. I think both facebook and google have been an enormous benefit when it comes to the usability of today’s enterprise solutions.
    Without the lessons learnt from both of these companies we’d still be bogged down in the archaic enterprise applications of the late 90’s.
    The simplicity of both have changed the way enterprise suites view the “average user” and added a wealth of customer centric benefits.
    Sure I agree with some of the points raised with Facebook in regards to corporate behaviour and many social and moral issues in today’s society but in the end it comes down to “we have a choice”. If you don’t like it don’t use it.. If you don’t like the company don’t work there.
    I think facebook is great to store contacts and photos and when I go overseas to meet up with friends and tell everyone about my travels.
    Just have to be careful that the incriminating shots from last night are kept under control.
    Oooops – gotta change those privacy settings, or maybe steal everyone’s cameras or perhaps not do anything fun at all!
    Ah the modern day dilemma!

  6. Are you kidding? Australians could never muster the kind of organisation it takes to have big, profitable Silicon Valley companies running here. America is always going to be where it’s at. We are incompetent and fail at literally EVERYTHING. Like your article.

    Your opinions are just that. I’m pissed at Google for Google+ and I was pissed for Wave. Who the hell do they think they are?? I hate everything about Google other than their search engine. In my mind Google means search. And by the way, what the HELL does “Google+” mean anyway? How is that even remotely a distinctive name that MEANS anything?

    Anyway, you’re objectively wrong about most of your points, not just in this article but in most of them. Why you do this job is beyond me, but I suspect it’s that you’re able to spew pretentious crap from your behind at the drop of a dime and you love the sound of your own printed voice.

    Now go and marry Google and have its babies, bitch…

  7. I have a problem with any company that wants to BE the internet. And Google clearly do. That business is like a virus that MUST be chopped down SOON, or it will be too late and the next thing you know you have a tech-savvy NewsCorp on our hands. Google wants to be Big Brother, and I hate it for that. I hate Street View, and Google this and Google that. Google Coffee and Google Undies. Google Fillings and Google Condoms for my Google Sperm to fertilize my McGoogle wife.

    I hate companies when they get too big and their vision too grand. Its a monster you can’t destroy.

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