Google Plus Head Gundotra Exits After 8 Years at Web Giant

Vic Gundotra, who led Google Inc.’s efforts to challenge Facebook Inc. in social networking, said he’s leaving the search engine after almost eight years.

Gundotra, 45, joined Google from Microsoft Corp., and has pushed the Google Plus product to consumers, even as Facebook extended its lead. He announced his departure today on his Google Plus account, without saying where he’s going.

“Now is the time for a new journey,” he wrote. “This is a day to celebrate the past eight years. To cry. And smile. And to look forward to the journey to come.”

Chief Executive Officer Larry Page thanked Gundotra in a separate post and wished him luck with his next project.

Google has undergone several management shifts since co-founder Page became CEO in 2011. Executives including Marissa Mayer, who is now Yahoo! Inc.’s CEO, left the Mountain View, California-based company. Last year, Android operating system head Andy Rubin handed over the reins of the mobile-software division to Sundar Pichai.

Gundotra was appointed senior vice president in 2011 and has been in charge of social initiatives. He was part of the so-called “L-Team” that reports directly to Page and also includes other senior vice presidents.

More Traction

While Facebook continues to dominate social networking, Google’s effort under Gundotra to get users to associate their identities with services such as search and mobile location has gained traction. In October, Google introduced 18 features, with a focus on editing and enhancing photos and videos. Gundotra said at the press event that Google was “looking at doing nothing less than revolutionizing the feel of photography.”

At the time, Google said about 300 million consumers visit the Google Plus stream of content from friends, while total users logged in to the service who undertake a social action monthly is 540 million. Facebook, which yesterday reported first-quarter results, said it has 1.28 billion monthly active users, or almost half the world’s Internet population.

Among Gundotra’s most high-profile appearances at Google was a filmed, on-campus interview he led with talk show host Conan O’Brien in 2010. O’Brien came on stage following a bagpipe player and was then given a microphone and said, “How are you, Google?” When Gundotra, dressed in a sweater and blue jeans, joined him, the bearded O’Brien turned to him and said, “Who the hell are you?”

The YouTube clip of the interview has been viewed more than

1.7 million times.

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