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Marissa Mayer, Google's vice president of search and user experience, and one of the most visible members of the company, is taking a new position, moving to head up the search giant's local and location-based services, InternetNews.com has confirmed.
"Marissa is moving over to an exciting new role covering geo/local, which is crucial to our users and the future of Google," a company spokesperson said in an email.
By moving Mayer, who joined Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) in 1999 and is arguably the highest-profile member of the company short of its two founders and CEO, the search giant seems to have sent a message that location-based services, and the more targeted advertising they invite, are the next major frontier of the Internet.
"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," the spokesperson said.
The news of Mayer's move was first reported by Bloomberg.
Google has made no secret of its interest in geo-aware services, earlier this year rolling out Google Places, an overhaul of the Local Business Center service that allows businesses to register profiles appended with geographic data tailored for searches. That followed earlier forays to add location information to Google searches such as the "near me now" feature and the geo-aware Latitude service for mobile devices.
Now, with Mayer at the helm of the division, Google will have a strong force overseeing what could be the next major growth area for the advertising-driven Internet sector, as firms look to pair location information with the ascendency of mobile computing and social interaction, a phenomenon that has given rise to popular services such as Twitter and Foursquare.
"Local is the most important signal to emerge in the database of intentions since the link," Federated Media CEO John Battelle wrote in response to Mayer's move. "Once a consumer demands that businesses respond to their intent in the context of where they are, right now, well ... the first to get that response right, wins."
Stepping into Mayer's old role as the head of Google's core search business will be Udi Manber, who previously served as the company's vice president of engineering in search.
"We are delighted that Udi Manber will head up search across Google," the spokesperson said. "It's the heart of our company, and he is an outstanding computer scientist, with over twenty years experience in this field. Udi's focus will be driving innovation for the benefit of users everywhere -- so we are excited about what's ahead."