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Vint Cerf: Google may not always be top search dog

The father of the Internet -- a vice president at Google -- says the search giant could one day be outshined by a company with better techology.

Vint Cerf
Vint Cerf

Google is seen by many as the de facto standard for Internet search. But the company may not always be king of the castle, says famed Internet pioneer Vint Cerf.

Speaking at the Life Online exhibition at the the National Media Museum in the United Kingdom, Cerf downplayed any potential danger in Google's Web dominance, according to blogging site Pocket-Lint. The father of the Internet, who's also a VP and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google, pointed to healthy competition from Bing and other search engines.

But Cerf said that Google's role as top dog in the search market could easily be captured by another player.

"There's nothing to stop someone from developing better technology than we have and to invent something even more powerful and efficient and effective," he said, according to Pocket-Lint. "We absolutely know that there could be somebody just like Larry and Sergey [Page and Brin of Google] on some university campus with an idea we don't have that could explode on the scene and take the business away."

Cerf noted how Alta Vista was once considered the top search engine, then gradually lost that position to Yahoo, which itself eventually gave up its ground to Google. But it's that pressure and fear of a rising rival that forces Google to keep striving to create better search tools, according to Cerf.

Of course, Google faces other concerns beyond a potential competitor.

With its hold on the global search market, the company has continually triggered privacy concerns and complaints among individuals, privacy groups, and lawmakers. Google's latest effort to revamp its privacy policies to share user information among all its services has aroused strong criticism.

The European Union expressed fears that Google's new policy could violate certain EU rules. Google users in California and New York have even filed a suit against the company over the new policy.

Google has also faced privacy issues around the world over its Street View service and its late and not-so-lamented Google Buzz feature.

Though not specifically mentioning Google, Cerf addressed the issue of privacy in a connected world in a recent interview for the National Media Museum.

Noting that people with Web-enabled smartphones can record anything in public and upload it to the Internet, Cerf acknowledged that "privacy now becomes a really interesting conundrum."

Coming up with the right norms on handling privacy in a digital world, especially across different countries, is the next major online challenge seen by Cerf.

"I foresee that as the next big, hard problem in the Internet environment," he said.