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With Gundotra out, changes likely for Google+

Google's social network will have to move on without its champion

April 25, 2014 06:47 AM ET

Computerworld - Now that Google's Vic Gundotra, a senior vice president and the head of Google+, is leaving the company, changes are likely afoot at the social network he championed since its inception, industry analysts said.

Vic Gundotra
Senior Vice President of Engineering at Google Vic Gundotra speaks about updates to Google Plus during a Google event in San Francisco, on Oct. 29, 2013. ({Photo: Beck Diefenbach/Reuters)

"Gundotra was certainly the public face of Google+," said Brian Blau, an analyst with research firm Gartner. "It was his creation, his group and he was the spokesperson for it. They often reveal what's going on at Google I/O. It's only eight weeks away so we may find out what could happen with Google+ soon enough."

Google+ usually gets quite a bit of attention, along with updates about the Android platform and search, at Google I/O, the company's annual developer conference, which is being held June 25 and 26 in San Francisco.

Gundotra, who was a general manager at Microsoft before joining Google in 2007, led the effort to create Google+, which launched on June 28, 2011 as a social networking competitor to Facebook, as well as the social glue that the company plans to use to connect its different services.

He also was a popular public face for Google+, which had about 300 million active monthly users in October 2013. Gundotra took the stage at major conferences, speaking passionately about Google+, and garnered more than 6.5 million followers on his Google+ page.

On Thursday, Gundotra announced, fittingly, in a Google+ post that after starting the Google I/O conference, leading the company's mobile efforts and creating Google+, he is leaving the company.

He did not explain why he is leaving or what he will do next.

"But, now is the time for a new journey," he wrote. "A continuation... I am excited about what's next. But this isn't the day to talk about that. This is a day to celebrate the past eight years. To cry. And smile. And to look forward to the journey yet to come."

Blau noted that any conjecture about why Gundotra is leaving is just that -- conjecture. Whether he was asked to leave, left or personal reasons or found an offer he couldn't refuse, it still means that Google+ has been left without a champion.

"I don't think this is good news for Google," Blau said. "Vic seemed to be someone people really resonated with and liked... But Google+ is more than Vic. Google+ is a central part of the Google ecosystem strategy. I have a hard time seeing it going away. It could morph but it won't go away."

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