Will AI-powered search change the way we use the internet? Google CEO Sundar Pichai thinks so.

In an interview with The Verge’s Nilay Patel, Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai discussed AI-powered search, a major topic at the founder’s recent Google I/O developer conference.

At the event, Google announced a slew of new AI tools and models: Ask Photos, AI Agents, Project Astra, Gemini 1.5 Pro and Gemini 1.5 Flash, Nano, and AI Teammate, to name a few.

The most visible announcement for regular people is probably the addition of AI Overviews to Google Search. You’ve probably noticed that when you search anything on Google, an “AI Overview” will pop up, showing you an overview of the answer to your question using AI. Google is answering the question for you, making clicking links to other websites less necessary. It’s changing how web traffic might be traveled — which has many people freaked out. Pichai, of course, said there’s no cause for concern.

The CEO told The Verge that we often think some new tech — mobile phones, for instance — will destroy the internet as we know it. And while he admits that those changes have resulted in “things [playing] out a bit differently,” the destruction part doesn’t often come to fruition.

“I remain optimistic,” Pichai said. “Empirically, what we are seeing throughout the years, I think human curiosity is boundless. It’s something we have deeply understood in Search. More than any other company, we will differentiate ourselves in our approach even through this transition. As a company, we realize the value of this ecosystem, and it’s symbiotic. If there isn’t a rich ecosystem making unique and useful content, what are you putting together and organizing? So we feel it.”

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Regarding AI Overviews, he thinks most people are “responding very positively” to them.

“It’s one of the most positive changes I’ve seen in Search based on metrics,” he said. “But people do jump off on it. And when you give context around it, they actually jump off it. It helps them understand, so they engage with the content underneath, too. If you put content and links within AI Overviews, they get higher clickthrough rates than if you put it outside of AI Overviews.”

That’s not the sentiment shared within creative industries. Full disclosure: journalists’ jobs often rely on people clicking on our stories — not just reading an overview of them. As The Verge pointed out, the News/Media Alliance CEO told CNN that AI Overviews “will be catastrophic to our traffic.” The Washington Post ran a story titled, “Google’s AI answers could come back to bite it.” Dave Lee, Bloomberg Opinion’s U.S. technology columnist, wrote a column titled “Google’s New Search Engine Is Bad News for the Web Economy.”

Pichai has a response for that, too. He told The Verge: “These are disruptive moments. AI is a big platform shift. People are projecting out and putting a lot into creating content. It’s their businesses. So I understand the perspective [and] I’m not surprised. We are engaging with a lot of players, both directly and indirectly, but I remain optimistic about how it’ll actually play out. But it’s a good question. I’m happy to talk about it more.”

Beyond publisher concerns, there are undoubtedly additional impacts we haven’t seen yet — mainly because, as Wired reported, you can’t turn the tool off.

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