Google co-founder Sergey Brin made a surprise appearance at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco today. He spoke briefly with John Battelle.
Of note, Brin said that he’s excited about Twitter’s success because it’s interesting for him to see entrepreneurs that succeed twice. Twitter co-founder Evan Williams first big break came when he sold Blogger to Google in 2003. It reaffirms the difference a good entrepreneur can make, Brin said.
When asked if he had anything to do with the Google/Twitter search deal yesterday, Brin said he was aware of it but wasn’t personally involved. He also noted that he hasn’t attempted to buy Twitter in the past, though it’s not clear if that just meant him or anyone at Google. He went on to say that Google talks to a lot of companies about partnerships and the idea to buy is always one of the options.
Battelle asked Brin to comment on whether Google would eventually make its own phone hardware. Brin said that was a better question for Andy Rubin (Google’s Android head) but noted that Google has worked closely with a number of phone makers since the G1 to closely tie the software to the hardware, which he believes is important.
Speaking of hardware, Brin said that is an area that keeps him up at night with excitement. He loves the pace of innovation and is always thinking about what Google can do with new and faster devices.
On Bing, Brin noted that he uses all the search engines (presumably to test them out against Google). He said that he thinks it’s good that Microsoft is bringing stronger competition in the market. He also expressed disappointment about Yahoo and Microsoft’s search deal. He wishes Yahoo would continue to go it alone.
Finally, someone asked him where Chrome for Mac is — a topic near and dear to our hearts. Brin says that he’s already using it, the unstable developer’s version. He said that it’s personally troublesome to him that it has taken this long to get it out. He wishes they could have launched it at the same time, and really wishes they had a beta out already.
Below find the Q&A (paraphrased):
JB: So you got to chat with Tim Armstrong. Do you miss him?
SB: Oh yeah it’s great to see him here. We miss him a lot. But it’s great for AOL to have a leader like him.
JB: So yesterday the Twitter deal, how did that go down?
SB: I was aware of it, but not personally. It’s exciting to see an entrepreneur be successful twice. Blogger was great, and I got to work with Ev for a while obviously. It reaffirmed the difference an entrepreneur can make. It’s nice to see him be successful. We have quite the alumni community, which is great for partnerships and trust.
JB: Did you try to buy Twitter.
SB: Um, I did not try to buy Twitter. But when companies approach us, we consider the opportunity to buy.
JB: We talked to Sheryl Sandberg yesterday, another alum. What’s Google’s response to Facebook and Twitter?
SB: I would dispute that Google dominates the economy of attention. From the beginning, it’s just about coming on and doing a search and find these other websites. The web has grown, but people don’t spend all the attention in the search box.
JB: But you can make money there.
SB: When we started, you couldn’t make any money there though. But we made a bet that this would be important. It took several years to make what is now something that’s very lucrative. There will be others that we don’t realize now.
JB: What about the push into premium display ads?
SB: I can’t forecast what it will be. But at a high level, the Internet as an ad platform is efficient. It’s a rising tide, rates will go up.
JB: Google has been criticized for doing too many thing. Boiling a lot of oceans, mobile, search, ads, etc. Can you succeed in all of them? Do you want to bat .350?
SB: I don’t know baseball, is that like 35%? I think we can do better than that.We started Gmail, it was a pain to deal with email. There were client solutions, but none were that great. The web offerings were toys basically. With Android, we were trying to use other platforms, but they were closed, different, etc.
JB: Will there be a Google hardware device for Android?
SB: I’ll leave that for Andy Rubin. But we have been very involved. Ever since the G1. We want to work closely with a few at any time. You can’t make software totally divorced from the hardware.
JB: Do you like Bing? You a Bing user?
SB: I use all search engines out there. Bing reminds us that search is a competitive market. There’s Powerset that Microsoft bought. There’s Cuil. There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on. It’s a shame Yahoo is abdicating.
JB: They would say they’re not.
SB: Sorry that was my impression.
JB: Do you have a comment on Microsoft/Yahoo search deal?
SB: I shouldn’t comment on that. But Yahoo had some interesting things, they should stick with it.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
SB: There are things that keep me excited at night. Primarily hardware. Moore’s law still continuing is amazing. 8 core processors, 2 terabyte hard drives, it’s incredible. Fiber optics too. Google looks at what we can do with this new powerful technology that we couldn’t do before.
JB: What do you make of the recent complaints about Google not paying their fair share to places like the AP and Rupert Murdoch?
SB: I think they’re just tying Google with change. The world is changing, the business models are changing. They’re making a leap that we’re causing that or we’re stealing from them, I think. I don’t agree with the conclusion, but I hear the pain.
Q: Where’s Chrome For Mac?
SB: I am using it. Anyone can. You have to go to a page that says you shouldn’t use it, but you should. To be fair, it’s not as stable as I’d like it to be. The timing has been an issue. I’d be much happier if we launched at the same time or had a beta now. We are all suffering from this. I do use it a lot now, but it’s somewhat unreliable.
Q: Give a 2 years or 3 years out vision of what Google Books will be?
SB: Yeah thanks for that question. I’ve been surprised about the controversy there. We want to make books available on a huge scale. We overcame tech challenges. We had to overcome the legal dispute, which we’re working on. These books have great content, even if they’re 50 years old. People need to access them and we need to pay them for that, we know that. I’m surprised by the resistance. But I’m optimistic that we’ll be successful and that we’ll provide access to tens of millions of books.
That’s a wrap