Vic Gundotra, who as Google’s VP of engineering was been responsible for areas of the company’s mobile and developer relations, has been charged with leading the company’s underdog efforts on social, I’ve confirmed and TechCrunch reported this morning.
Gundotra has had an increasingly public profile, with on-stage presences at the company’s recent Android, real-time search, and Google Buzz announcements in the last year, as well as interviewing Conan O’Brien when the comedian visited Google this spring (the video of that chat has nearly 900,000 views).
Google had looked externally for a “Head of Social,” retaining a recruiting firm to see if it could find someone to inject some social web insight into its algorithmic DNA. In the months since, details for a Google competitor to Facebook called “Google Me,” a Google Games product in partnership with Zynga, and a Google music service have emerged, though no such products have launched yet.
We obtained a recruiting letter in May that described the “Head of Social” role as such:
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.
Given the amount of trouble it’s had attacking social, an internal Google employee (Gundotra has been at the company since 2007) could be a risky bet. But plucking someone closely involved with Android is a shrewd move. Given Android’s incredible growth, mobile looks to be be Google’s best front on which to wage a social war (the TechCrunch post has much more imagery on that front, depicting the Google-Facebook war in terms of the epic movie Patton). Gundotra also clearly loves the spotlight, and it will take a certain amount of panache for Google to launch something that really wows its critics and users.
We’ve asked Google for comment and will update if we hear back.
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