Google's ultimate aim is to create a search engine with artificial intelligence to exactly answer any question a user puts to it, the company declared last night.
At a Google "zeitgeist" conference, at a country house hotel in Hertfordshire yesterday, Larry Page, the co-founder and president, rebutted criticisms that the company had lost its focus on its core search engine business.
He said: "People always make the assumption that we're done with search. That's very far from the case. We're probably only 5 per cent of the way there. We want to create the ultimate search engine that can understand anything ... some people could call that artificial intelligence."
Mr Page, speaking to journalists after addressing the conference, said it was not possible to predict when Google would achieve this goal, although he pointed out that "a lot of our systems already use learning techniques".
He also attacked opponents of the company who accuse it of violating copyright and stealing others' content.
"A business negotiation is going on, with lawsuits and people feeding misinformation out," Mr Page said. "In my opinion, this is about money."
Google is undertaking a controversial project to scan every book in some of the biggest libraries in the world. Mr Page said the company would not provide that content to users unless it had the approval of the copyright owner. The scheme would produce a web-based card catalogue instead.
"We follow copyright laws. Where we don't have permission, we won't show you the content," Mr Page said.
Mr Page and his chief executive, Eric Schmidt, who was also addressing the event, said Google's revenues could grow exponentially, as it had tapped a tiny proportion of the $800bn (£424bn) global advertising market.
Mr Schmidt pointed that advertising that was targeted for web searches only accounted for 0.5 per cent of the market.
"Our category of advertising is showing 50 to 100 per cent growth. Other categories are not growing. Market share [for web search advertising] will never be 100 per cent, but I can imagine 5, 10, 15 or 20 per cent."Reuse content