Web 2.0 Summit: Surprise! It's Google's Sergey Brin - InformationWeek
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Web 2.0 Summit: Surprise! It's Google's Sergey Brin

Sporting unusual footwear, Google's co-founder stopped by to chat about his company.

Google's Sergey Brin decided to drop by the Web 2.0 Summit on Thursday afternoon to spend a few minutes chatting with program chair John Battelle. You can do that sort of thing when you're the co-founder of one of the most successful companies in the world.

Wearing what looked like a pair of Vibram Five Fingers -- feet-like shoes that cover toes separately, the way gloves fit fingers -- for a sprained ankle, Brin fielded questions about various aspects of Google's business.

Asked how the Twitter deal -- Google yesterday said it would include tweets in its search results -- went down, Brin acknowledged being aware of the deal without providing details. He said he was excited to see Twitter co-founder Evan Williams succeed twice -- Williams co-founded Blogger, which Google later bought.

'It's reaffirmed the difference an entrepreneur can make," he said.

Asked if he tried to buy Twitter, Brin responded, "I did not try to buy Twitter," which isn't quite the same thing as stating that Google did not try to buy Twitter.

Asked to elaborate on Google's plans as the Web's referral economy becomes more social, Brin merely challenged the way the question was framed. "I would dispute the notion that Google dominated the economy of attention," he said, insisting that users in the past arrived at Google and left quickly.

Brin offered only the vaguest of guidance about the company's prospects in the display advertising business. Internet ad rates will go up, he said, but declined to be more specific than characterizing the situation as "a rising tide."

Brin did offer some insight into Google's approach to product development. "Primarily, we've entered areas where we run into a problem," he said, citing Gmail and Android as attempts to improve on bad Web e-mail systems and cumbersome mobile platforms.

Brin revealed that he used Bing, at least on occasion. "I use all search engines out there," he said. "What Bing has reminded us is that search is a very competitive market." He also said it was a shame that Yahoo appeared to be turning away from search.

Brin dodged a question about whether Google would release its own phone hardware. "I'll leave those questions to [Google mobile platform director] Andy Rubin," he said.

Responding to the newspaper industry's gripe that Google is the source of the newspaper industry's financial trouble, Brin said, "I think they are conflating Google with change."

Brin expressed regret that Google Chrome hasn't been released for the Mac. Brin said that he was using an early version of Chrome for Mac and that users can try it for themselves if they go past Google's Web page warning users not to download the still-buggy development build of Chrome for the Mac.

Finally, Brin said he didn't expect the resistance that Google has faced over its Google Book Search project. "We get criticized kind of for everything but I've been surprised at the level of controversy there," he said, adding that he was nonetheless optimistic that Google will be able to bring the service to market.

The most influential event about the Enterprise 2.0 movement is coming to San Francisco this fall: Enterprise 2.0 Conference Find out more and register.

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