Google Co-founder Sergey Brin Says He Did Not Try to Buy Twitter

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-10-22

Google Co-founder Sergey Brin Says He Did Not Try to Buy Twitter

SAN FRANCISCO -- Google co-founder Sergey Brin said Google did not try to buy Twitter, casting off reports to that affect in a surprise visit onstage here at the Web 2.0 Summit Oct. 22.

Web 2.0 Summit Co-Host John Battelle asked Brin if Google tried to acquire Twitter, the microblogging with whom Google struck a deal with Oct. 21 to index Twitter tweets in real time on Google search results pages.

"I did not try to buy Twitter," Brin said, before adding a quixotic comment certain to be parsed to death in the blogosphere. "If companies approach us, we definitely consider any a opportunities."

Does that suggest that Twitter shopped itself to Google? Or was Brin answering that he personally did not try to buy the company. It's unclear.

Brin did say it was exciting to see Twitter CEO Evan Williams enjoy success twice in the Internet sector. Williams founded Pyra Labs, which Google acquired for its Blogger assets in 2005.

"To see him... succeed even more dramatically a second time, I think it reaffirmed a difference an entrpreneur can make to me," Brin said. Twitter's star is on the rise for sure. Google announced its deal with Twitter at the show hours after Microsoft executives said the Bing search engine would index real-time content from Twitter and Facebook.

The rest of the discussion was diverse, covering Brin's thoughts on Microsoft Bing, the search engine gunning for Google's 65 percent market share; Chrome for Mac; Google Book Search; and the alleged Google Phone.

First, the Bing discussion. Battelle asked Brin if he was a Bing user. Brin was characteristically noncommittal, noting that he uses a lot of search engines out there and that Bing reminds "us that search is a very competitive market. There are many interesting companies out there."

He pointed to Bing, Powerset, which Microsoft acquired as the semantic search engine to power Bing and Cuil. He said Microsoft Live Search had a lot of nice features that Bing brought with it.

Brin on Yahoo, Google Book Search and Chrome for Mac

Unbidden, Brin also said Yahoo was doing interesting things in search and that it was a shame the company plans to "abdicate" search to Microsoft, which agreed to power Yahoo's searches with the Bing infrastructure. That deal is under regulatory scrutiny by the Department of Justice.

"I do think Yahoo had a number of innovations and I wish they would continue to innovate in search," Brin said.

Battelle also asked about one of the rumors du jour: Will Google release a Google-branded smartphone based on the Android mobile operating system?

Brin deflected this, saying he would leave those questions to Andy Rubin, director of engineering for Android. Brin did say it is very involved in development for devices such as the T-Mobile G1, the first Android-based smartphone. "We want to work closely with a few [carriers] at any given time."

Brin also reiterated his surprise over the resistance to Google's Book Search settlement to scan millions of out-of-print books online and license them to readers. While no large company is offering to do this, many parties are opposing this bid and the DOJ requested changes.

Google, authors and publishers are revising it to present in New York District Court Nov. 9. Brin fired back at critics such as Microsoft and Amazon in an opinion piece published in the New York Times Oct. 9.

He also said he believes publications that claim Google isn't paying its fair share by indexing their content and disassociating it with their brand are confusing Google with change. He said the business models are changing and that they are making a leap that Google is causing that or stealing that from them.

Brin also admitted a rare disappointment for the Google Chrome Web browser project, noting that he wished a version of Chrome for Mac had already been in the market. Chrome is currently available for Windows, but the Linux and Mac versions have been delayed.

"I would have been much happier if we had had a beta out now and I'd have been happier if we launched them simultaneously, but certainly that this delay is something that many of us suffer through." He said people can use it in a very rough, unstable developer build.

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