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Google's Social Czar Is Vic Gundotra

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Vic Gundotra, who as Google’s (s goog) 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.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

Why Google Should Fear the Social Web

14 Responses to “Google's Social Czar Is Vic Gundotra”

  1. Father Time

    I’m sorry. But Vic was not graceful or competent in handling the situation with Conan. He didn’t seem to realize Conan had no idea why Vic was even there. Conan is an improvisor. Vic is a corporate product. They mixed about as well as a match and gasoline.

    This episode illustrates something much more than just the fact that software nerds, especially the ones that developed their career at Microsoft, mistakenly think they are intellectually great, not lucky. Let me just say something about Conan versus Vic or most of the geniuses at Google. Your intellect doesn’t hold a candle to Conan. You mistakenly believe that your ability to code empowers you. Well, not quite. You still can’t hold a decent conversation.

    Vic, perhaps for the first time in his sheltered life, met a person who is actually decent, and sincere. That would be Conan. I would recommend every employee at Google watch this video over a number of time. Then go read the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. Zuckerberg may not be Mr. Collegiality, but compared to Vic, he is fairly decent. Vic on the other hand, reeks of the arrogance of Microsoft, laced with a little new money and feigned altruism from Google. While I think that Brin and Page have the right idea most of the time, Schmidt is a nerd and he seems to be perpetuating nerdy, social ineptness throughout Google.

    So, as long as Google has power freeks like Schmidt and Vic at the visible positions, Facebook is going to keep kicking Google’s ass.

    A piece of advice to Google. Get over yourselves. You aren’t that cool.

  2. The guy was outshowed by Conan. That’s no fault of Conan or Vic. Conan’s got a humongous presence and wasn’t letting Vic get a word in. it was funnier that way, and so Vic served his purpose in that regard. That said, I don’t think a wildly funny comedian is going to be competing with Vic for attention at major unveilings.

  3. This guy is terrible. He has the personality of a ficus. And when he is onstage…I immediately cringe and start praying for a distraction. Really smart move Google…

  4. I obviously don’t want to attack Vic personally, but I find it interesting that Google’s social czar is honestly… kind of socially awkward. Check out the Conan video – it’s a little painful to watch them interact.

    • shahaullah

      Vic did a fine job hosting the program, but maybe he (and most probably, the majority of people) aren’t exactly equipped to handle Conan’s overflowing amount of testosterone-charged actions and comments. Vic probably isn’t used to dealing with people like that, and that being said, he did a great job.