Google Wave creator defects to Facebook

November 1, 2010: 5:56 AM ET

Just two months after Google's cancellation of his Wave product, Lars Rasmussen is bolting to Facebook.

Rasmussen at Google I/O via CNET

In an interview given to the Sydney Morning Herald, Lars Rasmussen acknowledged previous rumors that he'd quit Google (GOOG), and, after a compelling personal pitch from CEO Mark Zuckerberg, would be joining Facebook (after the requisite month on the beach).

Rasmussen joined Google in 2004 after the company he founded with his brother, Where 2 Technologies, was picked up by Google to become Google Maps.

He then worked on what would become Google Wave. Wave was a new take on messaging and collaboration that was introduced to initial acclaim at Google I/O in 2009...

Although it was hard to explain to the layperson what it did or where it would fit in, Wave  did gather a small following.  Rasmussen was on hand a year later at Google I/O 2010 to try to attract interest in the project. His efforts didn't work. Wave was formally shuttered shortly afterward.

If it wasn't already obvious, Google's cancellation of Wave was the motivation for Rasmussen's departure. He told the Herald, "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."

What should be more worrisome for Google is that the company is seen as growing too big to be efficient , as Om Malik points out, to get things done (GTD):

Rasmussen said another reason for leaving was that Google was becoming too unwieldy. He made several comments about Facebook's smaller size and how this made it easier to make an impact and get things done.  While Google employs 25,000 staff members, Facebook has about 2000. "The energy there is just amazing, whereas it can be very challenging to be working in a company the size of Google," Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen's departure is one of a long string of high profile departures for the company, with many heading to Facebook.  In this case, CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a "compelling personal pitch" to join the company with the only job description described as 'come hang out with us for a while and we'll see what happens.'"

He's also joining some other former Googlers, or Xooglers as the growing faction is now called, at Facebook (some estimate that 1 in 5 Facebook employees is a Xoogler). In fact, familiarity and experience with his former Google colleagues may likely have been a motivating factor for Rasmussen to join Facebook:

On the plus side, Rasmussen said he would be working once again with two former Google colleagues: Facebook chief technology officer Bret Taylor and platform manager Carl Sjogreen. Taylor worked with Rasmussen on Google Maps in the early days and Sjogreen, who was based in Sydney for a while, worked on both Google Maps and Wave. Sjogreen joined Facebook last month after Facebook bought his social networking travel site, "A good part of the reason I'm going there is that there are particular folks who worked at Google before who I loved working with and who are there now and that's very attractive," Rasmussen said.

Facebook defections shouldn't be surprising for Google.

SearchEngineLand sums up this natural phenomenon well.

Rasmussen, who recently had his project canceled, was naturally off to do something else.  However, if the tide of dissent among talented and entrepreneurial engineers continues, Google may have a significant problem on its hands, especially if they continue to show up at Facebook's front door meeting up with their old counterparts.

More than anything, getting things done, or greasing the wheels of internal entrepreneurial spirit, should be a high priority for the leadership at Google.

Rasmussen's brother and Where 2 co-founder Jens is still officially at Google's Sydney office, though I wouldn't expect that to last too long.

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Seth Weintraub
Seth Weintraub

Google went from searching the Web to worming its way into nearly every facet of business and government. Seth Weintraub unveils where the company is going, who it's competing with, who it's about to compete with and how market forces push the company to veer or adhere to its Don't Be Evil motto. For 15 years, Weintraub was a global IT director for a number of companies before becoming a blogger.

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