Now it's Google's turn: Big changes in a bad economy

In a very different business climate from last year, Google's classic strategy of firing up all burners evenly to see what projects cook first, may have abruptly ended this morning.

In a manner atypical of Google, which usually deposits its resources in a central location, it was left to every department affected by an apparent round of severe budget cutbacks to relay the bad news today on its respective blog. Google referred Betanews this morning to those individual statements, in lieu of a larger corporate comment.

While it's obvious the company is working to avoid steep job cuts, and instead retain as many employees as possible, the emphasis of the strategy change appears to be to discontinue otherwise unproductive projects, and concentrate its humanpower the way it concentrates its data storage -- in less dispersed locations. Here is a working summary of the changes individually announced thus far:

  • Engineering. Three offices are being closed where engineering work, perhaps among other work, takes place: in Austin, Texas; Lulea, Sweden; and Trondheim, Norway. No specific job cuts are being announced for those offices -- in other words, folks in those locations aren't being laid off explicitly. But they are being asked to swim upstream, to find other work in other Google locations. If they can't do it, it would appear they will be let go -- as many as 70. SVP for Engineering Alan Eustice wrote this morning, "We do recognize the upheaval and heartache that these changes may have on Google families, and that we may not be able to keep 100% of these exceptional employees."
  • Recruiting. The company will be eliminating 100 positions in the recruitment department, where it's evident those folks' jobs won't be necessary for awhile. Again, those employees are being asked to swim upstream to find new jobs within the company: "We know this change will be very difficult for the people concerned, and we hope that many of them will be able to find new roles at Google," writes Vice President for People Operations Laszlo Bock.
  • No more Catalog Search. The Book Search development team will discontinue its work on a project for building an electronic catalog of printed catalogs.
  • No more uploads to Google Video. In a growing realization that the company has another division for this sort of thing, the Google Video page will no longer be accepting individual uploads of new videos. "Don't worry, we're not removing any content hosted on Google Video -- this just means you will no longer be able to upload new content to the service," writes product manager Michael Cohen. He hints that the service may continue as a cross-platform search center, though its duplication with YouTube will evidently be pared down.
  • Pulling out of open source projects. Google was already moving its Jaiku microblogging engine into the open source community under the Apache license, but apparently once that process is completed, its own developers will cease their own contributions to the effort. That doesn't mean Jaiku will cease to exist, however.
  • No more Dodgeball, as the company's mobile social networking service will soon be discontinued.
  • No more Mashup Editor, as the company apparently determined it overlapped too strongly with App Engine, a much more ambitious project. "Existing Mashup Editor applications will stop receiving traffic in six months, and we hope you will join our team in making the exciting transition to App Engine," writes VP of Engineering Vic Gundotra.
  • No more Google Notebook, as one of what was originally the Google's more promising "cloud" projects will evaporate. This morning, product manager Raj Krishnan offered a handful of Google alternatives for Notebook-like functionality, but he did appear to be stretching it a bit, unable to explain the functionality overlap that probably someone else above him concluded existed.

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