Google's habit of acquiring promising startups and then disappearing them into the Googleplex Vortex is no secret -- it left Blogger to languish for years, and closed Web 2.0 wunderkinds JotSpot (wikis) and Measure Map (blog traffic analytics) to new users the minute it bought them, with no word about when, or if, they'd ever reopen.
The 'buy and ignore' habit has long irked users and pundits, but now comes a sign of dissent from within.
Two years ago, Google picked up Dodgeball, a mobile social-networking application for the always-wired set. The deal netted Google two talented Web developers, Dennis Crowley and Alex Rainert, who built dodgeball as part of their master's degree work for New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program.
But on Friday, Crowley and Rainert loudly left Google, metaphorically flipping the bird at the company on the way out the door.
"The whole experience was incredibly frustrating for us - especially as we couldn't convince them that dodgeball was worth engineering resources, leaving us to watch as other startups got to innovate in the mobile + social space," Crowley wrote in his blog. "It's no real secret that Google wasn't supporting dodgeball the way we expected."
To be fair, Google sometimes revitalizes what it buys. Technology from Keyhole became the elegant, popular Google Earth, and Picasa is a formidable player in the Web photo management and sharing applications space. After doing the usual "closed to new registrations" disappearing act, Writely reemerged as part of Google Docs.
But just as often, Google seems more interested in buying up bright developers than it does in supporting the applications they've created. Measure Map founder Jeffrey Veen, now a design manager at Google, is reportedly focused on other projects at Google.
Other acquired creators have gone outside the Google fold with their new entrepreneurial ventures. dMarc Broadcasting's co-founders, Chad and Ryan Steelberg, quietly slipped out of the Googleplex early this year, amid rumors of an acrimonious clash with Google over its radio-ad sales strategy. Pyra Labs co-founder Evan Williams joined Google through its 2003 acquisition of Google, then left the next year. His new company, Obvious Corp, is the power behind Web 2.0 hypemagnent-of-the-moment Twitter, one of the "other startups" catching fire in the mobile/social networking field.
Dodgeball's Crowley is moving on to a new startup, area/code, a New York marketing firm that develops interactive games. Rainert has joined digital services firm IconNicholson as a creative strategist. As a parting shot at the company that dashed their dodgeball dreams, the pair posted a photo of themselves at dodgeball's offices offering a thumbs-down to Google. Adding insult to injury, the photo is on Flickr -- the social media hotspot Google considered acquiring, until Yahoo snatched it away.