California: Google senior VP of social Vic Gundotra has announced that he is leaving the company.
“Today I’m announcing my departure from Google after almost 8 years,” said Gundotra in a post on Google+, the service he has been managing. “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.”
Gundotra joined Google in 2007 after his association with Microsoft over 15 years, which he left as general manager of platform evangelism.
At Google, Gundotra initially evangelized the web. He was a frequent keynote speaker at company events. In 2009, when he was VP of engineering and head of developer evangelism, he declared at Google I/O: “The web has won.” This was at a time when the web was mostly viewed through desktop browsers.
The situation changed rapidly since, as in January, for the first time, more Americans used mobile devices than personal computers to access the Internet. Apps generated 47% of Internet traffic while mobile browsers accounted for 8%, according to comScore. PC-based browsing came to 45%.
The web remains a powerful, open platform, but it is not getting the same attention now as mobile apps, where platform owners can exercise greater control and demand fees.
Google’s focus has narrowed to advertising and commerce under Sridhar Ramaswamy, Android and Chrome under Sundar Pichai, and its Cloud Platform under Urs Holzle, alongside the company’s more speculative and research-oriented initiatives. Google+ is doing well with over 500 million monthly active users, but it has not yet developed into an important development platform and user acquisition channel along the lines of Facebook. That might be because the Google+ APIs haven’t yet presented a clear value proposition to enough developers.
Gundotra has had his share of failures. For example, he backed the ill-fated Google Wave in 2009, praising it with the Jobsian adjective “magical,” rather than keeping it in the laboratory until it was ready. Nonetheless, his many accomplishments are well regarded, and he departs with CEO Larry Page praising him.
“You cut your teeth on our mobile apps and developer relations, turning our disparate efforts into something great,” said Page in a comment on Gundotra’s post, praising him for making developers excited to work with Google technology. “Then you built Google+ from nothing. There are few people with the courage and ability to start something like that and I am very grateful for all your hard work and passion.”
Google declined to comment on a possible successor to head Google+, but re/code reports that VP of engineering David Besbris will get the job, rather than Bradley Horowitz, VP of product management for Google+.