As of July 1, I’m moving from Google’s Android team to our Identity group, to work on OAuth, OpenID, and that sort of stuff. Back to being a full-time Web guy, for a while anyhow.
Why? · Several reasons. First, it was made increasingly obvious to me that I wouldn’t be successful in the Android group unless I moved to headquarters, which really isn’t an option for me.
Second, Android has the best engineering team it’s ever been my privilege to work with, but it’s sort of a silo, and all-engrossing; It’s easy to lose sight of the vast and wondrous landscape of online technologies and cultures.
Finally, I did a lot of work in recent months on the soon-to-launch Google Play Services, in particular getting the OAuth stuff working end-to-end from an Android app through a frightening number of moving pieces, through to the identity back-end. (I’ll probably have a final piece on the developers’ blog about that work.)
I’ve become fascinated by the tech and policy and developer issues around OAuth, and two things seem obvious to me:
Usernames and passwords generally suck and obviously don’t scale to the Internet, so we need to do away with ’em soonest.
The new technology coming down the pipe, OAuth 2 and friends, is way too hard for developers; there need to be better tools and services if we’re going to make this whole Internet thing smoother and safer.
In the new role, I’ll probably be getting out more; there are buttloads of conversation and lobbying and listening to be done around identity and authorization technologies, which can by definition only work in a meaningful way when multiple un-related parties get together to make it happen.
On Google Generally · I remain a huge fan of Google and what it’s trying to do. Google’s business bets all depend radically on a diverse, heterogeneous, safe, easy-to-use Web; and that’s what I care about most, professionally.
I think that Google’s many critics are mostly wrong. I have issues with some of the things we do, but there are lots of places internally to holler in a way that’s hard to ignore; and I think that at most other places, I’d have more to holler about.
I have two problems that may limit my future here. First, much of the company, like Android, is radically centralized, and not in good harmony with my need to telecommute. I’m optimistic that the identity gig will have less of this friction, because it needs to span not just the company but across companies and thus will require decentralized work. But we’ll see.
My second gripe is that, as a Googler, there are so many interesting subjects I can’t write about. You can bet that I have powerful opinions about the flurry of patent litigation, about things that Google and our competitors are doing, and about the industry in general; some of them might surprise you. My opinions may be wrong, but they’re (I think) unusually well-informed, and I bet I could make them entertaining.
But either they’d be things that are just inappropriate to say about your employer or competitors, or they’d been heard as being spoken in Google’s voice.
I’ve seriously thought about setting up as an indie like John Gruber or Horace Dediu, focusing on Google and Mobile. And maybe I will. But for the moment the identity thing has its hooks way into me, I’m proud to be a Googler, and expect to have fun.