Vic Gundotra, a longtime Google employee who has led Google+ since the beginning, is leaving the company. In a post on Google+, Gundotra says he wants to try new things. "Now is the time for a new journey," he wrote. "A continuation." The news was first reported by Recode, and had been rumored two days ago on the app Secret. The social network will now reportedly be led by David Besbris, a Google vice president of engineering. He apparently got the job over Gundotra's top lieutenant at the social network, Bradley Horowitz.
Gundotra joined Google almost eight years ago after a long career at Microsoft. He was a vocal, cheerful presence at news events, and was responsible for shaping and implementing Google+ features like "circles" of friends. It was also Gundotra who pushed Google+ to focus on attracting users' photos in the hopes that it would draw more people to the network. But Gundotra was not universally beloved — internally, some of his employees referred to him as "The Vic-tator." One former Google+ team member told The Verge that Gundotra was a polarizing figure within the company, and that he had friction with other members of the so-called L Team — CEO Larry Page's inner circle of advisers. But the former employee said Gundotra also had a staggering challenge put in front of him: making Google+ as big and relevant as competitors like Facebook and Twitter.
"You built Google+ from nothing."
Publicly, Page congratulated Gundotra for his time at Google, managing to plug a Google+ feature at the same time: "You built Google+ from nothing," Page wrote. "There are few people with the courage and ability to start something like that and I am very grateful for all your hard work and passion. I really enjoy using Google+ on a daily basis, especially the auto awesome movies which I really love sharing with my family and friends."
In October, Gundotra reported that Google+ has 540 million monthly active users, 300 million of whom regularly visit plus.google.com. But the network has struggled from the outset with the perception that it is a "ghost town," and that the use of circles to segment groups of friends into different buckets is confusing. In June, Google will host the I/O developer conference that Gundotra started. For the first time, the company will do it without him — and in the meantime, speculation about the future of Google+ will only intensify.