Sergey’s secret Google projects, and the challenge of 1,000 blooming flowers

What’s Sergey Brin been up to since his pal Larry Page took the reins as CEO of Google, the Internet search company that the pair co-founded 13 years ago?

Brin, who spoke at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, discussed his new role at Google, which he said is focused on advanced research projects like Google’s famous self-driving cars, as well as some “infrastructure” projects.

Brin said he was optimistic that Google’s so-called “autonomous cars” would eventually make it to market – though he noted that the vehicles still required a good deal of research and development before being ready for prime time.

The cars have successfully completed a 1,000-mile challenge, covering tricky terrain such as San Francisco’s steep and wind-y Lombard Street without human intervention, Brin told a small group of reporters during a media briefing that followed his on-stage appearance.

But, he said, “we need to move on to doing a million miles. And the level of reliability that we need for a real consumer product is high. And we’re getting there.”

Google+ to Facebook: TMI!

Vic Gundotra, Google’s head of social, doesn’t care about every song his friends are listening to and every article they’ve read.

“We do not believe in over-sharing,” he said at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Gundotra may not have said “Facebook,” but his comments were aimed directly at the world’s No.1 social networking service, which recently introduced a so-called “frictionless sharing” feature in which a user can elect to have all their online activities – such as the names of the videos they’re watching and the songs they’re listening to – automatically broadcast to their friends.

What would Frank do? Quattrone sheds light on the art of M&A

Frank Quattrone, the mustachioed dealmaker that helped generate multi-billion bidding wars for clients 3Par and DataDomain, says the technology industry is ripe for more acquisitions. Quattrone

The reason is simple: a top tier of tech companies have loads of cash in their coffers and many of those companies are interested in buying a much broader range of companies than in the past, Quattrone explained during a rare public speaking engagement at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.

“Instead of having one or two buyers within each sector, now if you’re a networking company you might be bought not just by Cisco, but by Oracle, by IBM, by Dell, by HP, now there are five or six big companies that want to buy almost no matter what you are,” he said.

LinkedIn’s secret anti-Facebook weapon: Keg Stands

BeerKeg LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner has two words that reassure him that his professional social network is not threatened by Facebook: Keg stands.

Weiner took a moment to explain the ever-popular college tradition of imbibing beer directly from the tap of a keg while being suspended upside-down by drinking mates during his talk at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.

“While many of us in college probably were at parties having a good time, doing things like keg stands, or being exposed to keg stands, I don’t know that many of us would look forward to having a prospective employer have access to picture of those events,” Weiner said.

Facebook’s Zuckerberg on relationships with big companies

Facebook has had its differences with Google and Apple in recent months. FACEBOOK/

And Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg tried his best not to comment directly on the budding rivalry with the two tech titans during his appearance at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco on Tuesday.

But Zuckerberg did offer some clues about Facebook’s philosophy towards working with big companies that might offer some insight into its relationships with Apple and Google.

“If you’re a very large company and supporting you is going to cost us tens of millions of dollars, then we want to at least have an understanding of how you’re going to use what we’re doing, and that you’re not just going to import the data but also try and contribute back to the ecosystem and make people’s Facebook experience better.”

Yahoo jumps into the local deals game, partners with Groupon

YAHOO-MICROSOFT/Rumors continue to swirl that Yahoo would like to buy Groupon, the fast-growing group-buying service.

But Yahoo’s heart seems to be in partnerships these days, and the company announced on Tuesday that it had struck a deal to offer Groupon deals in its new local offers program.

Groupon is one of 20 partners in Yahoo’s local offers program, including Goldstar, ScoopSt and ValPak.

Meebo introduces Web site check-in service

A number of Web companies are fighting to become the primary service for people to “check in” to real world locations, like coffee shops and stores.  MeeboLogo

But Meebo believes there’s an equally important need for people to check in to Web sites that’s been overlooked.

Meebo hopes to fill in what it says is a missing piece of Today’s social Web, creating a social network based not just on friends and contacts, but on personal interests.

from The Great Debate UK:

Remembering how to forget in the Web 2.0 era

Amid ongoing debates over the hazards of excessive digital exposure through such Web 2.0 social networking platforms as Facebook and Twitter, a new book by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger extols the virtues of forgetfulness.

Since the emergence of digital technology and global networks, forgetting has become an exception, Mayer-Schonberger writes in "Delete".

"Forgetting plays a central role in human decision-making," he argues. "It lets us act in time, cognizant of, but not shackled by, past events."

Comcast’s Brian Roberts at Web 2.0 (video)

Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts took time out from strategizing over his company’s reported bid to buy NBC Universal to speak at the Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco on Tuesday. As expected, Roberts declined to comment on any ”specific” deals including NBC. But he did indicate as he has done in the past that content will be an important part of his company’s future and that it is always “prudent” to take a look at opportunities as they come up.

While he remained on message (or is that off message?), Jeff Immelt, his counterpart at NBC Universal’s parent General Electric, was a little more forthcoming, saying the company is considering its options for NBC Universal which could include keeping it.

In this 43 minute interview, Roberts also talked on a range of other topics including the importance of building faster Internet services and gave a demostration of his company’s On Demand Online service which he said will be launching nationally before the end of the year.

Flu and Twitter mark Web 2.0

Twitter love was in full bloom at the Web 2.0 conference on Wednesday, with Microsoft and Google each announcing deals to partner with the microblogging service.

But marring the Twitter hoopla were no-shows from two of the event’s highest-profile speakers.

A day after Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz skipped the company’s quarterly earnings conference call (because she had “come down with something” as CFO Tim Morse explained), Bartz skipped the Web 2.0 conference, where she was scheduled to kick off Wednesday’s events with a 30-minute talk.