WEB 2.0 - Reporter's notebook: Google guys do hate evil

Google's founders do stress out about evil, former employees said at the Web 2.0 Summit.

At the last day of the Web 2.0 Summit, attendees learned that having their genome mapped will set them back US$300,000 and that Google's founders really stress over the prevention and extermination of evil.

During a panel of former Google employees, they confirmed to moderator and conference chair John Battelle that, yes, Larry Page and Sergey Brin do factor heavily into business and technology decisions and whether they will have evil consequences.

WeatherBill CEO David Friedberg belonged to Google's Corporate Development team and, when negotiating acquisitions, it wasn't unheard of for either Page or Brin to ask hard questions about the deals if they sensed that the members of companies' management teams had an evil streak, he said.

Meanwhile, entrepreneur Bret Taylor, who developed products at Google for four years, said Page and Brin were excellent at steering product teams to think big while reminding them always keep in mind the question of evil.

Earlier in the day, genetics maverick J. Craig Venter informed attendees that mapping a person's genome these days costs about US$300,000, but that, as happened with calculators, the price will tumble over time. For instance, if you can wait a couple of years, the cost will probably be closer to US$100,000. That's a bargain compared with the about US$70 million that it cost to map Venter's genome.

Venter's genome is posted on the Internet. He joked that there might come a day when singles on the dating scene will be able to do a Google search for potential mates' genomes, especially if they might at some point consider becoming fruitful and multiplying.

The son of a man who died of cardiac arrest at age 59 and of a woman who is still playing golf at 85, Venter has identified genes in his map both for heart disease and longevity. However, he estimates that scientists will need a critical mass of 10,000 human genomes in order to engage in the type of analysis that will lead to major, unequivocal insights about genetic traits.

And in a rare display of corporate affection, representatives from Internet archrivals Google and Microsoft sat beside each other at a panel on online maps and exchanged pleasantries.

The slightly surreal moment came about halfway through the a panel titled "Edge: Mapping." Brian McClendon, engineering director and product manager of Google Earth, commended his Microsoft peer Erik Jorgensen, general manager of Live Search, for Microsoft's support of Google's Keyhole Markup Language (KML).

KML is the language used to create data files for both Google Maps and its sister desktop application Google Earth. Earlier in the week, Microsoft announced that its Live Search engine's local search component has gained support for KML, giving it access to the wealth of mapping data created with KML and available on the Web.

Microsoft and Google can "duke it out" for customer acquisition, but "the fight shouldn't be on file formats, so cooperating on this makes all the sense in the world," Jorgensen said during the mini lovefest.

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Juan Carlos Perez

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