Google AI and search chief steps down as part of overhaul

John Giannandrea's role is splitting into two as Google focuses on AI.

Google's quest to conquer AI is leading to a major change in leadership. The Information has learned that AI and search leader John Giannandrea is leaving his role, which will be split into two: Google Brain leader Jeff Dean will run a dedicated AI wing in addition to his Brain position, while search engineering boss Ben Gomes will lead search as the division's Vice President. Giannandrea is staying around, but reportedly wants to be "more hands on with technology" than he was before.

A spokeswoman confirmed the management shuffle to Bloomberg, but didn't say more.

It's far from a surprise that Google would divide its search and AI structures. While the two divisions share a large chunk of their work, this puts all of Google's AI initiatives under one banner. Likewise, Gomes can focus more on search instead of having to juggle AI concerns. It won't be quite as unified, but it could improve Google's overall effectiveness.

Giannandrea's leadership might still be missed. Our TechCrunch colleagues observed that he had a very pragmatic approach to AI -- he considers ethics important to developing the technology, but he doesn't believe in the end-of-the-world scenarios some have imagined should AI go haywire. We don't expect Google's stance to change in any dramatic way, but don't be surprised if it shifts ever so slightly.