Updated: Google’s Ben Gomes expands role to head all of search as John Giannandrea moves to Apple to head AI

Role previously held by John Giannandrea to be split between Jeff Dean and Ben Gomes

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Editor’s note: this article originally reported Giannandrea would remain at Google and has been updated to reflect the latest announcement of his move to Apple.

The Information reported Monday that Google VP of Core Search Ben Gomes will be stepping up to lead all of search as vice president. This move is the result of SVP of Engineering John Giannandrea, who had been overseeing both the search and AI units, is moving to Apple to lead their machine learning and A.I. strategy, according to an LA Times report. The single role previously held by Giannandrea is being divided between Gomes, who will oversee search, and Google Senior Fellow Jeff Dean, who is currently overseeing the Google Brain team. Dean will now oversee both Google Brain and the AI unit at Google. Both Dean and Gomes are long-time veterans at Google (19 years and 18 years, respectively).

It cannot be overstated how instrumental Jeff Dean’s 19-year history with Google has been in driving the search giant’s success with its core product. While at Google, Dean has:

  • Co-designed five successive generations of Google’s crawling indexing and query retrieval systems.
  • Co-designed the initial version of Google’s advertising serving system.
  • Co-designed and implemented MapReduce.
  • Co-designed and implemented BigTable.
  • … and Google Translate, Google AdSense for Content, Google News, Spanner and more.

Ben Gomes has been an integral part of the Google Search team for 18 years. There’s not a part of the core search algorithm that he has not been intimately involved with. He’s been a key engineer on the team, as well as being described (by former Googler Marissa Mayer) as both their “search czar” and “diplomat” — as he easily communicates search development across the teams at the ‘plex and externally. Overseeing all of search will be a natural fit for him and the teams he’ll lead.

Giannandrea had been in the dual role for the past two years, taking over the search role when Amit Singhal stepped down. Giannandrea joined Google in 2010 as part of its acquisition of his company’s Metaweb technologies, which contributed to the development of Google’s Knowledge Graph. Giannandrea’s background in machine learning and AI, combined with Google’s emphasis on AI-first search, made him a natural fit for the role at the time. The Information report incorrectly reported he’d continue at Google, but it was learned today that he is moving to Apple. His background emphasizes research, and he takes with him to his new role heading AI and machine learning there his experience in the Natural Language Understanding team at Google. Apple has been seen as lagging others (Google, Amazon, Microsoft) in advancements specifically in voice and AI so this is a significant hire for them.

We reached out to Google for comment, and while confirming these changes, a representative also confirmed that no additional movements within the core search team are planned at this time.

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About the author

Michelle Robbins
Michelle Robbins, former SVP Content & Marketing Technology, overseeing editorial direction as Editor in Chief for Third Door Media's digital publications, Search Engine Land, MarTech and MarTech Today, directing a full-time staff of reporters and editors managing contributed content. She was responsible for developing the content strategy across all properties and aligning those initiatives with the programming and audience goals for Third Door Media's two leading marketing conference series, Search Marketing Expo and The MarTech Conference. In addition, Michelle oversaw information technology operations, directing the marketing technology department. An experienced domestic and international keynote and featured speaker, she enjoys connecting with the community at SMX, MarTech and other industry events. Connect online with Michelle on Twitter @MichelleRobbins, and Linkedin.

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