Vic Gundotra, who moved Google into the social media world, first with the ill-fated Buzz and then with Google+, on Thursday announced his departure from the company.
“Now is the time for a new journey,” he wrote, fittingly, on Google+. The announcement was laced with the usual praise for colleagues accompanying such statements.
It was met with an equally platitude-laden response from Google cofounder and CEO Larry Page, who said Gundotra “built Google+ from nothing.”
Gundotra will be replaced by VP of product engineering and fellow Google+ team member Dave Besbris.
Like a Bat Out of Hell
It’s unusual for executives at any level — let alone someone as high in the management ranks as Gundotra, who was a senior VP and a member of Page’s inner circle — to leave so abruptly.
“This looks like he got pissed or got fired, and they’re making it look like he quit,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told the E-Commerce Times. “If this were a more reasonable departure, you’d have at least 30 days to clean house.”
Contrast Gundotra’s departure with that of Hugo Barra, one of the poster boys for Android, last year.
“In a few weeks, I’ll be joining the Xiaomi team in China,” Barra wrote on Google+ Aug. 28.
“I know [Gundotra] didn’t like the forced integration of Google+ into Gmail and YouTube and other products,” said Ronald Gruia, director of emerging telecoms at Frost & Sullivan.
That integration, announced in January, sparked complaints not just from privacy groups, but also from users, who resented being forced to sign up for Google+ when they wanted to access other Google services.
An Interesting Man
Gundotra, who was assiduous in promoting Google+ and didn’t hold back when it came to publicly ripping into the competition, has aroused considerable interest.
A rumor that Gundotra might be interviewing for a new job, followed by confirmation of his departure from Google, triggered a plethora of comments on Secret, mainly negative toward him.
“Google was to advance his career, not to build a product people want to use,” wrote ‘poo,’ earning 43 hearts. “One of the worse execs I’ve ever worked with,” wrote ‘planet,’ earning 19 hearts. “Completely skirted the design process and got designers to do one-off projects for him that would derail plans for weeks on end and kill team trust.”
On the other hand, “Vic is an inspiring leader,” wrote ‘Android,’ adding: “Great energy. Quick thinker. Zeroes in on key issues,” earning 7 hearts. “I like Vic,” wrote ‘skull.’ “Not sure I understand where all the hate is coming from.” That earned 1 heart.
To be fair, Secret lets people post anonymously and has had issues with cyberbullying in the past, although CEO David Byttow outlined plans to address the problem in an interview at SXSW 2014.
The Possible Impact on Google+
Gundotra’s departure has triggered speculation that Google+ might be pushed down in the hierarchy at Google, with some reports stating the team’s offices were being moved to an outlying building on the company campus.
However, Page has pledged to “continue working hard to build great new experiences for the ever increasing number of Google+ fans.”
That’s the official party line, but “in the grand scheme of things, for the most part, the features of Google+ are still kind of murky,” Frost’s Gruia told the E-Commerce Times. “They may continue with Hangouts and photos, but in a sense, Google+ was a failed experiment and they may have decided to rethink it.”
Only 14 percent of more than 500 marketers will give Google+ a high priority this year, and 23 percent will not consider it, according to Socialbaker. In contrast, 80 percent will give Facebook a high priority.
Google might “mimic [Facebook CEO Mark] Zuckerberg and begin shifting people to the mobile side,” Gruia suggested.
Google would have to “fully staff and fund [Google+] with people that have some clue about how to create, build and market a social network,” Enderle said. “They don’t seem willing to do that.”