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It is not for nothing that Google is extra-cautious about allowing Amit Singhal to talk to the news media; neither it is surprising that it rarely allows outsiders inside its Search Quality department, where Singhal works.

'Singhal is the master of what Google calls its 'ranking system' -- the formulae that decide which Web pages best answer each user's question. It is a crucial part of Google's inner sanctum, a department called Search Quality that the company treats like a state secret,' The New York Times wrote recently in an exclusive story based on a rare visit to the department and conversations with Singhal allowed by the company.

Singhal, who was born in Uttar Pradesh, joined Google in 2000 and is now a Google Fellow, a designation the company gives its elite engineers. He heads its Search Quality team.
in his words
'More recently I find myself interested in question answering. People have questions and they need answers, not documents.'
Photo: Google
According to the Times, Google values Singhal and his team so highly for the most basic of competitive reasons -- it believes its ability to decrease the number of times it leaves searchers disappointed is crucial to fending off ever increasing attacks from the likes of Yahoo! and Microsoft. Obviously, Singhal plays a key role at Google to do precisely that -- stay ahead of its rivals.

Singhal, who has a bachelor's degree in computer science from the University of Roorkee, a master's in computer science from University of Minnesota and a PhD in computer science from Cornell, joined AT&T Labs after his doctoral degree. By his own admission, he joined Google in 2000 after being persuaded by his friend Krishna Bharat.

That Bharat and Singhal both feature on our A list proves they picked the right company.