Mayer's Move to Head Google's Local Efforts is a Wise One

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-10-13 Print this article Print

By now most people who care enough have weighed in about the promotion of Marissa Mayer, Google's longtime vice president of search and user experience, who was moved to run Google's geo/local business unit.

Google told me Oct. 12:

"Marissa is moving over to an exciting new role covering geo/local, which is crucial to our users and the future of Google. Marissa has made an amazing contribution on search over the last decade, and we're excited about her input in this new area in the decade ahead."

That's a fair, accurate description of the move, but even more importantly I have it on good authority from a source familiar with Google's plans that Mayer will be tasked with delivering the future of local search the way Google envisions it: augmented humanity.

There has been some question about whether this has been a demotion, or a cowing before Bing's nifty HTML5 stuff.

Nonsense, and I'm not just saying that because John Battelle thinks so. Consider that in addition to the move to run local, Mayer also earned a seat on the operating committee, or what used to known as Google's executive managemet group, whose members report directly to CEO Eric Schmidt.

So why demote her from search to local and give her a lofty position on the OC? Silliness.

Yes, Mayer was shuttled from Google's $24 billion a year ad moneymaker, where she orchestrated the user experience we see there daily for the last decade or so. Mayer one month ago introduced us to the imperssive Google Instant predictive search technology.

Despite this feat, scores of folks are convinced search is set, Google has won and that Bing is just going to bang it heads against the wall until Ballmer gets a concussion as it seeks to gain market share versus Google.

Some of these same folks argue that search tech improvements on the desktop will be incremental and that the real killer opportunities lie in integrating social apps and local search capabilities, or basically what Facebook, Yelp and Foursquare are doing.

Considered in that context, if Mayer is being tasked with creating a killer app to rival those existing programs, I can't help but think Mayer has just been feted with the most important quest Google has to remain, not necessarily relevant -- because search is not going to disappear into the ether -- but fresh and exciting.

There's nothing wrong with keeping up with the Joneses, especially if you're going to give the Joneses a run for their money. Which leads me to my next point.

Google already offers several local/social services in Google Latitude, which finds friends on Google Maps, Google Buzz for mobile, which lets users check-in from mobile phones, and Google Places, which connects businesses to consumers roaming the streets with their Android, iPhone or other handsets.

While these services are nice, they are no killer app -- not the kind that Mayer might build using the augmented humanity technology CEO Schmidt mentioned at TechCrunch Disrupt Sept. 28.

That's right. Mayer may not be haggling over how to insert ITA Software's travel technology into Google search result pages anymore (sexy, not), but she will be tasked with the autonomous search, or serendipity engine Schmidt raved about.

For example, Schmidt said he could be walking down the streets of San Francisco and receive information about the museums, restaurants and other places around him on his mobile phone without having to click any buttons.

"Think of it as a serendipity engine," Schmidt said. "Think of it as a new way of thinking about traditional text search where you don't even have to type."

Considering this task, that's not just a promotion; that's an honor to work on helping Google become more relevant in local search in the near terms, and to move the artificial intelligence needle forward for the future. |

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