Larry Page's Google Island
This year's Google I/O developer conference resulted in no new phones, tablets, or Chromebooks being introduced. And the three and a half hour keynote was too long. But co-founder and CEO Larry Page,who has been dealing with ongoing vocal cord issues spoke publicly for the first time in months. Page's voice was soft, and a bit groggy, but the entire room was so quiet and attentive, that it didn't matter. He spoke largely off the cuff, and offered an optimistic vision for the tech industry, calling for less negativity and a focus on "building things that don't exist." The whole thing was a surprise—none of the press or attendees knew this would happen. And, by far, the best part was Page dreaming aloud of what some have since dubbed a Google Island. "We haven't built mechanisms to allow experimentation. There are many exciting things you could do that are illegal or not allowed by regulation. And that's good, we don't want to change the world. But maybe we can set aside a part of the world. I like going to Burning Man. As a technologist maybe we need some safe places where we can try things and not have to deploy to the entire world. I like thinking about things like that."
The statement was a radical one for someone like Page. Most CEO's don't speak so freely and earnestly, and I loved that he was doing this in front of 6,000 people in attendance and more than 40,000 watching live online. And it all felt very appropriate for Google - a company that is a bit more creative and risk happy than most in tech. Since then, a lot has been written about what Page said, but nothing is as much fun to read as Mat Honan's fictional visit to Page's paradise, "Welcome to Google Island." It's the sort of piece that I wish I'd written—a story with big ideas, critical commentary, a captivating narrative, and a bit of nudity. Watch Page's comments on YouTube, then go read Honan's piece. It's one of the best one-two punches in tech journalism this year. —Nathan Olivarez-Giles, The Verge (@nateog)