Google’s Amit Singhal, the chief of the company’s search engine, has retired and he’s been replaced by John Giannadrea who brings artificial intelligence experience to the company whose life began with search.

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From Google search to Alphabet

Google, the largest company in the world by market capitalization, began has a humble search engine, albeit the best search engine in the world. Since then, Google has branched out all over the company which is driven by ad revenues is involved in hundreds of projects from self-driving cars to smartphone manufacturing to name just two.

But search is still important to Google and with the appointment of of Giannandrea to oversee search, it’s clear that Google is looking past search algorithms and stepping into the world of machine learning or deep learning. Giannadrea comes to search with an understanding of deep neural networks that utilize both software and hardware to teach machines to learn not unlike the neural networks humans have operating their brains.

Prior to retiring from Google, Singhal rolled-out RankBrain that uses deep learning to rank search results and is already employed by search for “a very large fraction” of Google’s search queries. And that’s a lot, given that millions of searches are made by Google’s search engine each minute at a rate of about 40,000 per second. So, Giannadrea’s posting as chief is not the first time that the company has looked to artificial intelligence to improve search, rather, it just shows a widening commitment to AI and it won’t simply be for search and won’t be limited to Google, we’re talking about the Internet.

Google’s earlier reluctance and Singhal

While the retired search chief did indeed begin employing RankBrain it took awhile for him to get over his reluctance according to number of former Google employees that asked to remain anonymous when they spoke to Cade Metz at WIRED.

Edmond Lau, the author of The Effective Engineer, explained that some of Singhal’s reluctance was a perceived loss of control by the “organic search” team.

“It’s hard to explain and ascertain why a particular search result ranks more highly than another result for a given query.” wrote Lau on the question and answer site Quora. “It’s difficult to directly tweak a machine learning-based system to boost the importance of certain signals over others.

So while control may be lost, Google clearly believes that its worth the sacrifice.

“By building learning systems, we don’t have to write these rules anymore,” Giannandrea told reporters earlier this fall, well before he was named chief of search. “Increasingly, we’re discovering that if we can learn things rather than writing code, we can scale these things much better.”

Sindal’s retirement was only announced yesterday but during a recent earnings call Alphabet Inc. Chief Executive Officer, Sundar Pichai, spoke of the company’s continued work with artificial intelligence and it’s use in areas like mobile assistant technologies in smartphones.

“This comes thanks to our years of investments in areas like natural language processing, computer vision, knowledge graph and other areas,” Pichai said. “The next wave will be powered by big advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence, an area where we believe we lead the industry.”

While Google may lead the field in Pichai’s estimations, they are certainly not alone in the field and other companies efforts in machine learning are not to be taken lightly.