“We always say it’s like a start-up,” Mr. Anderson wrote, “with zero risk if it fails.”
The layoffs across Amazon total about 18,000, and come with a hiring freeze that limits options for internal mobility. Many employees at the company wrote to Mr. Anderson saying his post touched a nerve. They told him they wanted to switch roles internally, he said, and “never work on one of these crazy projects again.”
Still, employees are excited to work on Amazon’s big bets, including satellite internet, health care and driverless taxis, said company spokesman Brad Glasser.
“The opportunity to work on projects that are transformative for clients, as well as build and use cutting-edge technology, is why many employees join the company and develop their careers here,” he said.
Google has long been the poster child for big, offbeat ideas. In 2009, Page convinced Sebastian Thrun, a professor at Stanford University, that after the company had conquered the internet, its next feat would be to transform the real world.
Self-driving cars are one of several ideas Google has begun working on, the secretive division founded by Mr Thrun, and Google X has been nicknamed the company’s “moonshot factory”. Some efforts have been successful, such as Google Brain, an artificial intelligence laboratory that is now part of the company’s research arm. Others have failed, including Google Glass, the augmented-reality glasses that drew derision, and Loon, a plan to beam the internet via giant balloons that never landed on a business model.