It appears Google is feeling the squeeze as the search engine market seems poised to be disrupted by OpenAI’s ChatGPT. A new report from The Information announced that Microsoft is now working to launch a ChatGPT-powered version of its Bing search engine that could debut as early as March.
This news comes on the heels of a New York Times report stating that the recent release of ChatGPT has led Google management to announce a “code red” as it decides how to address the threats to its massive search business.
Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and parent company, Alphabet, has been involved in multiple meetings focused on Google’s AI strategy, the Times stated, based on an internal memo and audio recording. Teams in Google’s research, Trust and Safety division, as well as other departments, have allegedly been tapped to assist in developing and launching new and competitive AI products.
Google has a similar large language model called LaMDA that is currently only available to a select few through its experimental AI Test Kitchen app. The Times reported that the company has been struggling to deploy LaMDA on a large scale due to ethical concerns that it generates toxic or biased information, but a manager in a recent meeting said that “Google must wade into the fray or the industry could move on without it.”
Microsoft invested $1 billion into a partnership with OpenAI in 2019, becoming its exclusive cloud provider as part of the deal, with the goal of developing a hardware and software platform within Azure. The partnership stipulated that Microsoft would be the preferred partner for commercializing OpenAI’s new technologies. The launch of a ChatGPT-powered Bing seems like the next logical step for this alliance.
Chatbots like ChatGPT could potentially revamp or replace traditional search engines. While ChatGPT is not yet perfect as far as accuracy is concerned, it provides information in a clear, conversational, and easily digested format. Recently, some programmers have claimed that ChatGPT gave them better search results for programming questions than Google search. This is not surprising for those who have been using Google search for a few decades now, as ever-increasing ads and ranked search results have progressively made the search experience less productive and more frustrating than in prior years.
Web search is 57% of Google’s total business as of Q3 2022, with product searches remaining the most profitable due to the company’s ad services. Gross ad revenues from Google search accounted for $39.5 billion in 2022. Microsoft’s Bing is the second-largest search engine worldwide and brought in $11.5 billion in 2022.