By Gabrielle Solomon
October 11, 2007

Bigshots from around the world are converging on Google HQ tomorrow for Zeitgeist, the faithful’s annual mecca to the Googleplex. But at least one of Google’s top brass is heading for the exits: Benjamin Ling, a high-ranking engineer described by Google (GOOG) watchers as one of “Larry and Sergey’s golden boys” has defected — to Facebook.

Reached in his Google office late yesterday, Ling confirmed the move, but declined further comment. His last day at Google is Friday.

A Ph.D in computer science educated at Stanford University, Ling was product-management director for Google where he oversaw all of the search goliath’s ecommerce efforts. Among other things, he created and ran its payment service, Google Checkout, as well as Google SMS, which delivers search services via text messages to cellphones. Ling will be heading the Facebook platform, the software architecture upon which the popular social network is built.

Ling follows ex-Googler Gideon Yu, who was the Chief Financial Officer of Google’s YouTube, to Facebook. Yu left for the CFO’s slot at the Palo Alto startup in August.

Google’s stock has surged to over $600 a share recently, which, ironically, is making it harder to keep top talent on board. Silicon Valley pundits believe that Facebook is headed for an IPO in the near future — a much faster path to riches for early stage employees. –Lindsay Blakey contributed to this post

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