After spending years as a punchline, Microsoft’s Bing search engine has completed its Rocky training montage and is ready to get back in the ring. Yesterday, Microsoft announced an AI-powered revamp of Bing that’s expected to reignite a dormant battle with Google over its search dominance.
During a surprise event, Microsoft said that the tech behind OpenAI’s ChatGPT would be integrated into Bing, resulting in a new breed of search engine where answers will be more direct and conversational, as opposed to the typical ad-packed list of links.
- Bing will run on newer and more powerful software than ChatGPT, and will provide faster, more humanlike replies, Microsoft said.
- Will those replies be accurate? Time will tell.
Google has been preparing for this. In a Minority Report-esque pre-response to the Bing news, Google on Monday announced plans to integrate its vaunted search engine with its own ChatGPT rival called Bard, which will be made available to the public in the coming weeks. Google’s been nervously watching ChatGPT since the chatbot’s release, when it declared the tech a “code red” for Google’s search business.
The race is on
The two tech behemoths are scrambling to capitalize on so-called “generative AI,” with Microsoft motivated by an opportunity to claw back some of Google Search’s market share (~93%), and Google motivated to hold on tight. And, given changing search behavior—younger internet users are increasingly using TikTok and Instagram for recommendations—both companies know that evolution is necessary.
For some sectors, the economic impact of an AI-first era of search could be as rough as ChatGPT’s attempts to write a funny cartoon. Publishers would likely lose out on referral clicks, given AI’s direct answers, and the tech giants themselves would need to rethink how their own ad services work.
But Microsoft and Google think the ultimate promise of AI vastly outweighs short-term hiccups, and both are pouring gobs of money into boosting their AI capabilities. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told CNBC, “I have not seen something like this since I would say 2007–2008, when the cloud was just first coming out.”—MK