Google's been looking for someone to fill its "Head of Social" role for several months now. Now, it's finally filled that vacancy from within by promoting Vic Gundotra, Google's VP of engineering.
Originally the company had looked externally for someone to lead its efforts in social networking and guide those involved in the production of the rumored "Google Me," a competitor with social networks such as Facebook, hiring an executive recruiter last May to find their candidate.
Google described its "Head of Social" role while acknowledging that the company has previously made a poor showing in this area:This is a new and very strategic position, as Google knows it is late on this front and is appropriately humble about it. In Google’s view, conceptually, there are two ways to tackle social, each impacting who may be successful in this senior post: 1) building an innovative offering specifically in this area; or 2) developing the capability and integrating social into Google’s existing portfolio.
But in the end, Google turned to internal candidates, selecting Gundotra from their pool of stellar talent. Gundotra, who's been working for Google since 2007, has had an increasingly public profile, making announcements and on-stage appearances as well as interviewing Conan O'Brien during the comedian's visit to the company this spring. Previously his focus has been on Android and mobile phone applications, and he was a key player in the development of Android, which is currently the most popular mobile device OS. Previous to his work at Google, he spent 15 years with Microsoft as the General Manager of its developer outreach program.
He explained his departure from Microsoft: I realized I had spent most of my adult life working to put a personal computer on every desktop in every home at Microsoft and it occurred to me there was a fundamental shift going on, and that through mobile, and through Google, we were going to make the world's information useful and accessible to everybody.
Google's stepped up social networking efforts considerably in recent months, while cutting unsuccessful products such as Google Wave. They'll announce their acquisition of Slide tomorrow, but have already invested heavily in social gaming companies Playdom and Zynga.