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Dhaka Tribune

Google turns 25, with an uncertain future as AI looms

Google helped shape the internet. Now, artificial intelligence threatens to change everything

Update : 06 Sep 2023, 04:13 PM

What is it? Arguably the most successful search engine of all time, which turns 25 this week.

Started in 1999 by two Stanford PhD students, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, their objective, as stated by Page in a 2003 Fresh Air interview, was pretty simple: "We want to provide information to people. That's what we do. And so we try to err on that side whenever we can. And I think this will be a very interesting issue for the world going forward."

Of course, it has expanded into an entire internet ecosystem for users; there's the Google Workspace, Google Translate, YouTube (acquired by Google in 2006), Gmail, Google phones, and so much more, all tracing back to those early days of the DIY dorm room operation.

Google's domination of the internet is complicated.

Clickbait, targeted ads and search engine optimization muddied the waters of the goal to just "provide information to people." And then there's the advertising.

Nilay Patel is the editor-in-chief of The Verge and says the founders of Google didn't know what business they were in at first. Patel told NPR: "At the very beginning of Google, they were both fairly opposed to advertising. And they knew that advertising would be a way to make money, but they thought it would corrupt the company inevitably. And here we are 25 years later, and Google is a dominant purveyor of advertising online. I think it's important for us to all take a minute and look at it and say, 'OK, our information architecture is dominated by people searching for things, and those search results are very much influenced by the needs of Google.'"

And now artificial intelligence could usher in a new era of opportunity -- and change -- for the search giant.

Alongside the philosophical questions, there are very real and imminent challenges to Google happening now.

Next Tuesday, the US Justice Department's antitrust trial against Google is slated to begin.

The DOJ and dozens of states are attacking business agreements that have made Google the default search engine on many phones, web browsers and smart speakers.

Google has called the lawsuit "deeply flawed," saying in a statement in 2020: "People use Google because they choose to, not because they're forced to, or because they can't find alternatives.

This lawsuit would do nothing to help consumers.

To the contrary, it would artificially prop up lower-quality search alternatives, raise phone prices, and make it harder for people to get the search services they want to use."

What Sundar Pichai has to say

To mark the momentous occasion, Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent out a memo to all employees.

In the memo, Pichai spoke about a lot of things -- the evolution of search, how AI will impact the world, and what the future could hold for Google.

“Search is still at the core of our mission, and it’s still our biggest moonshot with so much more to do…We have 15 Google products that each serve more than half a billion people and businesses, and six that serve more than 2 billion users each,” Pichai said in the memo.

He did have a lot to say about AI: "Over time, AI will be the biggest technological shift we see in our lifetimes. It’s bigger than the shift from desktop computing to mobile, and it may be bigger than the internet itself. It’s a fundamental rewiring of technology and an incredible accelerant of human ingenuity."

"Making AI more helpful for everyone, and deploying it responsibly, is the most important way we’ll deliver on our mission for the next 10 years and beyond. Our search for answers will drive extraordinary technology progress over the next 25 years," he added.

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