zett - 6:45 am on Feb 18, 2010 (gmt 0)
G$$ is the only big company I know in today's business that keep pushing beta products to users, and outsourcing testing to end users.
The official statement of "test failure" was not a failure of testing on an engineering level. The product worked as intended when Google launched it. Thus, they did not launch it as "beta" as you might have noticed.
The "test failure" was in product marketing, i.e. those guys who should do the product definition, the launch plan, and the verification of these plans with focus groups.
What does this tell us? One of three statements must be true:
1) Google has a product marketing team that is clueless (did not test, or performed just weak tests). Bad news for investors. Expect more failed product launches in the future.
2) Google has a capable product marketing team, that is powerless against the engineers. Testing took place and revealed that customers would be upset. The marketing guys told everyone, but someone from engineering made the decision to launch anyway. Bad news for investors. Expect more failed product launches in the future.
3) Google has a capable product marketing team. Testing took place and revealed that customers would be upset, but the marketing guys (or management) made the decision to launch anyway. Bad news for investors, because it shows that Google can be evil.
My personal take is option 3, because they clearly had a fallback plan in place prior to launch. The superfast PR bonanza following the launch (aka "backpeddling"), and the quick succession of patches to a product that worked perfectly well, all this points to them knowing what would happen. They were prepared but tried to get away with what they thought might be accepted in the market.
Of course, they knew that you can not "launch a social network" out of the blue sky. Social networks grow. At the beginning you typically have just friendly users, and the network needs to grow from there before it actually can be called a "social network". Google decided for the fast track and opted everybody in, well knowing that this would save them six months to a year. For some reason, they did not want to wait that long. They wanted immediate success and threw the concerns over privacy out of the window.