I announced to my manager a couple of weeks ago that I’d be leaving Yahoo! on March 3. Yesterday I informed the rest of my team. The final decision to leave has been surprisingly difficult, and still has me feeling very unsettled.
I came to Yahoo! just over a year ago, after almost 10 years at my previous job. Leaving after such a short time is strange, especially since there is a whole lot of stuff left for me to learn and do. People don’t always have a lot of respect for this company, and that’s unfortunate. Yahoo! has a whole lot of really cool technology and really dedicated people working on it. The ease with which my team could launch a new version of our software to a globally distributed cluster of many thousands of busy Linux servers, with no service downtime, is really awesome. The frameworks and tools for managing hosts and services are really well designed and scale amazingly well. It’s not perfect, and I’m sure there are some places that do these things better, but not many. Some of these tools are have been released under an open source license. Hopefully many more will follow. I hope that, if this happens, it’ll spark some interest in some of the other tools that Yahoo! has developed internally.
So, if Yahoo!’s systems are as cool as I make them sound, why am I leaving? It’s a tough question to answer. Some of it is personal. I never felt a true sense of ownership of “Yahoo!” as a whole. I tried, but it was hard to feel like I could contribute to improving the Yahoo! user experience. The culture at Yahoo! simply doesn’t seem to encourage this. Dogfooding is encouraged, but only superficially. Looking around a bit, you’re probably more likely to see people using web search and email options from the company’s competitors than you are the company’s own offeringṡ. The only service that gets much internal use is Instant Messenger. (The ironic thing is that many engineers use Linux desktops, which are officially supported by corporate IT, yet there is no officially supported YIM client for Linux.)
My desire to leave Yahoo! basically comes down to my desire to work on things that I care about with other people who also care. I find such an environment to be far more stimulating, and far more effective when it comes to driving improvements in the products. In part, this is why I find open source so compelling. Nobody works on open source just for the paycheck. They work on it because they use the software. They write code knowing that other people are going to read it. People who are passionate about making improvements can simply do so. With that in mind, I’m happy to say that, on March 7, I will be joining Mozilla Corporation. Stay tuned…