Google just appointed a new search chief.
Machine learning executive John Giannandrea will taking over from long-time Googler Amit Singhal, who announced his retirement this morning.
Giannandrea’s new role shows Google’s continued emphasis on machine learning and artificial intelligence.
One of Google’s big priorities right now is “driving the next way of machine learning,” CFO Ruth Porat said on the company’s most recent earnings call.
Giannandrea joined the company in 2010, after Google bought his startup Metaweb Technologies.
His company was the basis for Google’s “Knowledge Graph,” which stores information to help users answer their questions as quickly as possible.
For example, it powers the informational sidebar that tries to save you from having to click any links that you sometimes see on the right side of the screen when you search for something.
“You might be interested in Albert Einstein because of his work in physics, or because of his peace activism — we sometimes have to put Einstein in the same bucket as Gandhi,” he told The Verge in an interview a few years back. “We’re not trying to tell you what’s important about Einstein — we’re trying to tell you about what humanity is looking for when they search.”
A Silicon Valley veteran
Giannandrea has worked at some of Silicon Valley’s most iconic companies, including serving as the chief technologist at Netscape, the first web browser, from 1994 to 1999, and as CTO of TellMe Networks, a pioneering voice recognition telephone service that was acquired (and ultimately divested) by Microsoft in 2007.
He also did a stint at General Magic, one of the first companies to develop consumer handheld devices in the early 1990s.
On Giannandrea’s LinkedIn profile, one of his former colleagues at TellMe describes his leadership style this way: “There were three types of engineers…those who wanted to work for JG, those who wanted to work with JG and those who wanted to be JG. He has far-reaching vision with the ability to go very deep very quickly.”
For all he’s already done to make Google’s products smarter, Giannandrea’s bar is still a lot higher.
“I think computers are remarkably dumb,” Giannandrea recently told Fortune. “A computer is like a 4-year-old child.”
His official title will be vice president of engineering, according to Bloomberg.
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