Google+ Head Vic Gundotra Is Out, Leaving Its “Social Spine” Wobbly

Google+ is still figuring out where it fits among other social identity managers like Facebook and Twitter since it launched in 2011. But Vic Gundotra, head of Google+ since its inception, will not be there to see its eventual epiphany.

Today Gundotra, who has spent eight years at Google, announced he is leaving the company with, predictably, a post on Google+

“I have been incredibly fortunate to work with the amazing people of Google. I don’t believe there is a more talented and passionate collection of people anywhere else,” he wrote. “And I’m overwhelmed when I think about the leadership of Larry Page and what he empowered me to do while at Google.”

Prior to becoming “Google’s Social Czar” and leading Google+, Gundotra was responsible for the company’s mobile and developer relations teams and mobile applications, and started the company’s Google I/O developer conference.

According to a report from Recode, VP of engineering David Besbris, not Google+ product head Bradley Horowitz, will replace Gundotra. 

Who Speaks For Google+?

Google has described Google+ as the company’s “social spine,” providing features like login and sharing across multiple Google properties. But it may take a less central role now.

According to a former Googler familiar with the company’s organization, Bresbis, formerly Google+’s engineering director, will likely not take Gundotra’s seat on Google’s so-called “L team”—the senior executives who report directly to Google CEO Larry Page and run large product groups like YouTube, Android, and advertising.

Gundotra’s departure could even lead to a dismantling of Google+, with groups like Maps and Android taking over responsibility for products that he oversaw centrally. Photos, in particular, might move over to the Android organization run by Sundar Pichai, to get more closely integrated into the same group that designs camera software.

 According to our source, friction with the influential engineers who form a parallel power structure within Google may have contributed to Gundotra’s departure. When other members of the “L team” left their roles, like former Local chief Jeff Huber and former YouTube CEO Salar Kamangar, they found new jobs within Google. The fact that Gundotra is leaving the company altogether suggests his exit was less friendly than theirs.

Owen Thomas contributed to this report.

Image courtesy of Paulmmay on Flickr

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