Google may be preparing to lay off thousands of workers, if a Silicon Valley information service is to be believed. WebGuild cites anonymous inside sources as saying up to 10,000 Google jobs could be on the way out, with smaller scale layoffs already underway.
"Hundreds" of employees have been let go in the past few months, the company's sources claim — and, they say, a loophole has allowed Google to keep quiet about the cutbacks. The trick, WebGuild reports, all comes down to categories: Google classifies about 10,000 of its workers as "temporary operational expenses," which means their positions are not official and could be eliminated without public notification. (Google officially reports having just over 20,000 full-fledged employees on staff. The additional 10,000 "temporary" positions speculated would bring the actual total to 30,000.)
"Google has hundreds of lawyers figuring out how not to get caught," WebGuild President Daya Baran suggests. "One of them is by moving workers from job to job every few months so that their status remains temporary. That is why you probably have never spoken to the same person twice at Google and that is also why there is somebody new on the job and most times you know more about their job than they do," he says.
Google has yet to publicly comment on any of the speculation.
Searching for Signs
Google's revenue and profit were up in the third quarter — a rarity in Silicon Valley this season that could be seen as an indication the rumours may not hold much merit. Still, if one is searching for signs of possible scaling back, such indications can be found.
The search company is trading its traditionally lavish holiday bashes for more subdued and small-scale celebrations this year, reports released just before the weekend suggest. Known for its jam-packed parties complete with giant ice sculptures and virtual reality entertainment, Google this year has opted to go for "more economical" activities, such as group volunteering outings followed by casual dinner parties, sources have indicated.
It's worth noting that cutback rumours have surfaced at Google before, only to end up holding little to no actual truth. Just a few months ago, reports filled the blogosphere that Google was ending its famous free dinner program for employees — a perk said to cost the company US$72 million a year. It didn't take long for Google to knock the rumour down, however, insisting nothing had changed and it didn't know where the falsehood originated.
If a Google scaleback were in the works, what would it mean? Hypothetically speaking, one might suspect some of Google's less profitable projects could get less focus. The company has previously maintained a "20 percent time" policy for engineers, requiring them to spend one day each week on projects of their own choosing. Google is also frequently trying out random Labs projects — everything from the new Gmail themes to the joke-inspiring Google Goggles programdebuted in October — not to mention its various gags and jokespulled off throughout the year. The loss of 1,000 workers could theoretically affect these sorts of non-crucial endeavours.
At this point, though, it's all speculation, and all from limited and unidentifiable sources. Only time will tell whether or not the rumours prove to be true — and, until Google decides to address the buzz, all the searching in the world will bring no definite answers.