As Gundotra departs, Google+ gets a new leader

Google names Gundotra aide Besbris to lead social etworking group; some analysts say changes are coming

As Vic Gundotra leaves Google and his post heading up Google+, the company has named a new leader of its social networking business.

Dave Besbris, vice president of engineering for Google+, will take over the top spot from Gundotra, who announced late last week that he is leaving Google.

Gundotra had spearheaded the creation of the social network Google hoped would rival Facebook, at least from a distance.

The former leader of Google+ did not specify why he's leaving the company. In a Google+ blog post Saturday, Gundotra said he won't be commenting on "what's next."

On Monday, Google confirmed talk on its social network that Besbris, described as Gundotra's right-hand man, will now lead Google+.

Gundotra praised Besbris in the comments section of his Saturday post.

"You have no idea how great Dave Besbris is," Gundotra wrote. "I love him like a brother. And he will carry Google+ to new heights. He built Google+. Yes he was there from day 1. So trust me, this man knows what he is doing."

The comments section also is largely filled with people thanking Gundotra for his work on Google+.

Besbris, who has just over 65,000 followers on Google+, has been with Google for six years. Previously, he worked at AOL for nearly a decade, part of the time as a senior technical director.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Besbris also founded a company called Nearcircle, LLC and ran it from 2006 to 2008, when he joined Google. Online searches found very little about Nearcircle.

"It's clear they didn't put a well-known evangelist in the Google+ leadership spot but maybe they don't need one right now," said Gartner analyst Brian Blau. "I just don't know Dave, so not sure if this is a good or a bad move for Google. But I'm confident Dave is a capable engineer as he has considerable experience on the Google+ engineer team."

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, suggested that Besbris is walking into a difficult situation.

"I don't think there's any indication that this is a good thing," he said. "Vic was a good leader who did the best he could with the cards he was dealt. He had to compete with Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, which is no small order."

In an interview last week, Scott Strawn, an analyst with IDC, said he doesn't expect Google to shut down Google+. This is just a change in leadership, not the death knell of the site, he said.

Several analysts, though, have said they expect the change in leadership to bring some changes to the social network. And they expect any changes to be explained at the Google I/O developer conference in San Francisco in June.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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