"I've received 33,000+ hits and counting to this post," says the blogger who wrote "Wikipedia 3.0: The End of Google?" on Monday. His piece got blogged all over, promoted to the Digg front page, and fueled the starry-eyed bloggers searching for doom to herald for Google. (It was also just a troll.) Kudos to him, but he — and everyone who believed him — was wrong.
The blogger's main premise was as follows: The Semantic Web, a logic-based version of the Internet (and an old idea), could render Google obsolete with an artificial intelligence system that provides real answers instead of keyword-based responses.
Sure it could, if Google didn't plan to innovate for the next decade. Google has five advantages that will keep all but the most determined innovators from beating it to artificial intelligence.
- Google knows semantics. Its entire business drives it toward pulling meaning from context. Better semantics make better ad placement and more precise search results. That's the reasoning behind contextual ads, topical search results, and the closely guarded and ever-changing search algorithm.
- Google has the smartest people in the world. Or damn close to it. Google's increasingly discriminating hiring process weeds out all but the top engineers — executives are fond of saying that Google only hires people smarter than half its employees. As one tech exec said, "Yahoo's morning bus may have wifi, but it doesn't have any PhD's on it."
- Google has Marissa Mayer. All "Marissa is a robot" jokes aside, Senior VP Marissa Mayer, one of the most powerful Google executives after founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, is a titan of artificial intelligence. For her Bachelor's and Master's at Stanford, she specialized in A.I., and she holds several patents in the field. Her knowledge will not be lost in her role as Google's product gatekeeper — it's Marissa who decides what products are ready for release.
- Google is filthy rich. And don't think clickfraud will bring them down — today, Google launches GBuy, a payment system that trumps pay-per-click advertising with pay-per-sale, meanwhile bringing in the dollars of would-be buyers who don't trust vendors, but do trust Google. All this income gives Google a lot more room to play than its most ambitious competitors.
- Google says it's working on AI. The co-founders already said that they're building a sharper artificial intelligence. Their new ambient sound translator can already identify a TV show from five seconds of computer-captured sound. Google plans to use the system for even more contextualized ads and content. Why this isn't the biggest tech news of the year is a mystery.
- Google is not distracted. The company's major competitors are Microsoft and Yahoo. The former is plagued by unwieldy plans for an operating system, software suite, and struggling media network. The latter is approaching media company status with an expanding network of original and outsourced content. While both Microsoft and Yahoo are making valuable progress in other fields, neither is innovating in search anywhere near the rate of Google. That's why over the past year, Google is the only engine with a growing market share in the U.S., and why Google could soon become China's top engine as well. And Google will stay on top — by beating everyone else to the world's first global A.I. system.