Google: Not afraid of the competition
Illustration: Nitzan Sadan
Google appoints Israeli head of search products
Udi Manber named internet giant's VP of Search Products, user experience. Manber tells Yedioth Ahronoth about field's challenges, why he welcomes competition
Google's primary operation, the search engine, is being transferred into Israeli hands: In a redistribution of authority within the internet giant, VP of Engineering Udi Manber has been named VP of search product, which will see him in charge of search products and the user experience departments.


Only days ago Microsoft and Facebook unveiled a partnership that could rival Google's personalized search capabilities, as the latter announced that its search engine, Bing, will soon display personalized results drawn from the social network. But Manber said Google is not worried.


"The more sources of information we have, the better the search results," he told Yedioth Ahronoth in his first interview since his appointment for the position. "We know how to receive information from many sources and combine them. Facebook is another source of information. We know that information from social networks is important, and we're working on it."


Competition is the spice of life

Manber also appears unfazed by the Yahoo-Microsoft Search Alliance, another deal announced earlier this year in an attempt to counter Google: "I prefer having as many competitors as possible," he said. "Now, without Yahoo there is one less competitor. Bing is a successful competitor, and we are happy to compete with it."


He sees the search field as a challenge: "Approximately a third of all daily search entries are new, ones we haven't come across in the past," he said. "We need to know how to help you find an answer even though we don’t have previous experience. It's hard to understand how difficult search is."


New developments are popping up in constantly to fill what the search field is lacking, though, and Manber sees some of them as surprising.


"There are things today that I wouldn't have thought possible a decade ago, like voice search," he said. "It is possible to speak on the phone and instantly get search results. It seems to me like science fiction."


Manber grew up in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, and skipped a grade in high school, when his talents in mathematics were discovered. One of his neighbors was singer Yehuda Poliker. "He taught me to play the guitar, and later I played with him," Manber said.


'Manber appointment an improvement'

Manber earned a Bachelor's of Mathematics from the Israel Institute of Technology in 1975, and went on to finish his Master's in 1978. In the early '80s he earned a second Master's degree and later a Ph.D. in Computer Science at the University of Washington, and has been living the US ever since.


Manber was developing search tools for the internet as far back as 1992, before the first browser was even launched. He served as a professor the University of Arizona, and in 1998 he became the head scientist at Yahoo. In 2002 he joined Amazon, and later became the CEO of A9, a search engine that Amazon was developing. He joined Google in 2006.


Manber's new position will see him succeed Marissa Mayer, one of Google's best-known executives, who has been with the company since its inception. Mayer has been made vice president of Geographic and Local Services.


"He is a very through man, who always pays attention to the small details," said a former colleague who refused to have his name published. "In my opinion, his appointment is a change for the better. Mayer wanted the search interface to stay minimalistic, but with the competition from Facebook and Microsoft's Bing it's impossible to keep the same interface."



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