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'Most powerful person in search' calls time on Yahoo!

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In the war for internet supremacy, one veteran has retired from the battle while another has new marching orders: Yahoo! trailblazer Srinija Srinivasan has bowed out while Google vice president of engineering Vic Gundotra has reportedly been tapped to head up Mountain View's anti-Facebook offensive.

"I'm proud to announce my graduation from Yahoo! employee to Yahoo! user," wrote Srinivasan on the company blog, giving notice after 15 years of service at the search pioneer, where she was employee number five.

While Srinivasan is moving out, Gundotra appears to be moving up. According to TechCrunch, "multiple sources" report that the Google veep has been tasked with leading his company's assault on the social-networking dominance of rival Facebook.

Srinivasan will "be devoting more time to my longstanding love for jazz" as chair of SFJAZZ, a non-profit that — among other activities — has produced San Francisco's annual Jazz Festival since 1983.

Gundotra's future will be anything but "non-profit". As The Nielsen Company recently reported, social networking has become the top single interweb activity, increasing 43 per cent from June 2009 to June 2010, and now accounting for nearly a quarter of all internet use — over 900 million hours per month in the US alone.

Google clearly wants a piece of that tasty pie, and Gundota — if TechCrunch's sources are correct — will be the man to grab it. As The Reg recently reported, Mountain View is said to be in talks with Disney's newly acquired Playdom, Electronic Arts's Playfish, and the Zynga Game Network (of FarmVille and Mafia Wars fame) to flesh out its rumored Google Me social-networking effort.

That's a battlefield that Yahoo! is staying out of — for now, at least — as chief executive Carol Bartz focuses instead on simply turning around the company's declining fortunes, cementing its Microsoft Bing partnership, and pumping up its display-ads revenues.

In Yahoo!'s corner, however, won't be the woman who Search Engine Land says was arguably "the most powerful person in search" in the early days of the web.

And as Gundota girds his loins for the social-networking wars, Srinivasan will be listening to Yusef Lateef, the Steve Lehman Octet, and Stew & The Negro Problem at the 28th annual SF festival, which opens this September. ®

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