Yahoo Loses Noted Chief Scientist to Microsoft

Former Yahoo chief scientist Raghu Ramakrishnan has joined Microsoft as a Technical Fellow within the Server and Tools Business (STB), Redmond announced this week.

Ramakrishnan will focus on "big data and integration between STB's cloud offerings and the Online Services Division's platform assets," according to Microsoft.

Ramakrishnan joined Yahoo in 2006, according to his LinkedIn profile. During that time, he served as vice president and fellow at Yahoo Research, as well as served as chief scientist for three of the company's divisions -- the Audience and Cloud Computing division, and, most recently, the Search and Cloud Platforms divisions.

He was a key figure in the development of several Yahoo technologies, including the Content Optimization and Relevance Engine (CORE), a "personalization algorithm" that determines what types of content best appeal to specific subsets of Web surfers. He also led the team behind Yahoo's "Web of Objects" initiative, which aims to make Web search results more actionable and relevant to the user's intent.

Prior to working at Yahoo, Ramakrishnan founded Quiq, which in the early 2000s developed technology that allowed companies to create question-and-answer communities, similar to Yahoo Answers, on their Web sites. He also wrote the popular Database Management Systems textbook.

"His work in database systems has influenced query optimization in commercial database systems and the design of window functions in SQL:1999," Microsoft noted.

Including Ramakrishnan, Microsoft has 22 Technical Fellows, who are individuals the company has singled out for their technical expertise and leadership.

Ramakrishnan's move to Microsoft was first reported on Monday by AllThingsD's Kara Swisher, who said his departure from Yahoo comes ahead of an expected "gutting of the company's research division" by CEO Scott Thompson. An earlier article by Swisher states the Yahoo layoffs "could number in the thousands."

Additionally, Web site PandoDaily reported last Friday, based on information from an unnamed source, that Yahoo will likely lay off its New York-based researchers by the end of the month. "Several companies including Google and Facebook are going crazy trying to acquire the team," the report said.

Yahoo's board of directors has also hit some turbulence. The company announced last month that three of its board members, including Chairman Roy Bostock, will step down after this year's shareholder meeting -- a move that is widely seen as a response to Yahoo's middling stock price and shareholder dissatisfaction. The announcement came less than a month after the resignation of Yahoo co-founder, board member and former CEO Jerry Yang, and five months after the firing of CEO Carol Bartz.

Now, Yahoo's board faces a potential proxy battle led by the hedge fund Third Point, which has a 6 percent share in Yahoo. In February, Third Point proposed the addition of four directors to Yahoo's board. However, the hedge fund has characterized its interactions with Yahoo since then as "dismissive." In a letter to Thompson dated March 14, Third Point founder Daniel Loeb warned that the hedge fund will file a preliminary proxy statement "within the week."

About the Author

Gladys Rama (@GladysRama3) is the editorial director of Converge360.


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