by Elinor Mills
Staff Writer, CNET News
October 8, 2005
It could take 300 years to index all the
world's information and make it searchable, Google Chief Executive
Eric Schmidt predicted on Saturday at the Association of National
Advertisers annual conference here.
"We did a math exercise and the answer was
300 years," Schmidt said in response to an audience question asking for
a projection of how long the company's mission will take. "The answer is
it's going to be a very long time."
Of the approximately 5 million terabytes of
information out in the world, only about 170 terabytes have been indexed, he
said earlier during his speech.
Schmidt admitted to the audience of advertisers
that when he first arrived at Google four years ago, he viewed ads from a
skeptical consumer standpoint. Shown ads on Google, he thought "You've
got to be kidding! People actually click on this stuff? And they do."
He said he quickly realized, though, that "ads actually do have value if
you can figure out the right ones to show."
Technology and the interactivity it enables, such as the ability to measure
an Internet ad's success rate by viewing how many people click on it, is
shifting power in the advertising industry from executives at corporations
to consumers, he said.
"The power is moving from us to the end
user; it's occurring by the power of the personal computer, by the power
of the cell phone," he said. "Thirty years ago we would make the
decision (about ads). Now, that person, that individual makes that
Advertising is increasing on the Internet and
cable television, and showing modest to no growth in newspapers and
magazines, Schmidt said.
"The cost per revenue dollar of online ad
systems is so much lower than" for offline advertising, he said.
Of the estimated $283 billion spent on
advertising in the United States, $11.3 billion is spent on the Internet,
Despite the slowdown in print advertising, Google is testing a campaign in
which the search giant is using its audience targeting technology to help
customers place ads in magazines, he said.
Schmidt predicted there will always be ads on the Internet but that there
may be an "ad-free subset" of the Internet that might offer a different way
for people to pay for things, such as using micro-payments.
During the question-and-answer session, audience members turned to social,
ethical and legal topics. One question dealt with criticism Google and Yahoo
have received for cooperating with Chinese government censorship efforts.
"The technology is neutral. It can be
applied for good or evil," he said. "Overwhelmingly, the message of
technology is a positive one."
Asked to explain why Google has submitted a
proposal to provide the city of San Francisco with free wireless Internet
service, Schmidt said the plan arose out of work several engineers did on a
system that would allow companies to make money offering such a service.
"It's an interesting experiment," he said.
"If it scales and if it is successful, we think it's going to be very
good for the world."
Schmidt also responded to a question about
complaints Google has endured, including a lawsuit filed by the Authors
Guild over its plan to digitize books and make them searchable online.
Google's Print Library Project adheres to U.S. copyright law, he
A "fair use" provision under the law allows for
excerpts of copyrighted material to be used and Google will only display
snippets of copyrighted text, he said.
"That model seems to be durable," he said.
"We're very, very careful if copyright is owned..."