Online search, dominated by Google for 25 years, has become as mundane as making a phone call, but it may finally be getting a deep reset thanks to artificial intelligence.
The classic search and click ubiquitous by the Google giant is undergoing a major AI overhaul, as ChatGPT, Bard or Bing bots see hundreds of millions of Internet users seek answers to life’s questions in a new way.
“People are realizing how often they use Google search, not to find a webpage, but to answer a question,” said Stefan Sigg, chief product officer at Software AG, based in Germany.
Microsoft, long considered the boring uncle of big tech, has leapt fearlessly and some say blindly into the pursuit of generative AI With an update to Bing, the long fight has also gone to Google.
Bing’s bot, which launched worldwide after three months of testing, responds directly to a query rather than throwing up a page full of links for the search user to scroll through and click on.
With a prompt, Bing compares two products, brainstorms vacation plans, or helps prepare for a job interview, for example.
“Now, search does the heavy lifting for you,” Cathy Edwards, Google’s vice president of engineering, said at the company’s annual I/O developer conference in California.
The user no longer has to “analyze the information and put the pieces together,” she said.
At the conference, in conjunction with Bing, Google unveiled the latest iteration of its web search juggernaut, but instead of the constellation of links that confronts you today, a chatbot offered a few paragraphs to answer what you were looking for.
Google’s AI-amplified search engine will roll out slowly in the United States as a start, the company said.
“What we’re trying to do is make it more natural and intuitive, as easy as asking a friend and getting input from someone who really knows any question you have in the world,” Elizabeth Reid, vice president of research, told AFP. . .
In addition to search, Google and Microsoft have deployed generative AI tools in other products, from the cloud to the word processor, featuring bots as useful “co-pilots,” to use the term hammered out by the Windows maker.
“I think search will be broken up into a million pieces and integrated into all sorts of interfaces, not just in one monolithic centralized place, which is what Google has become,” said John Battelle, author and media entrepreneur.
But if each site acts like a faithful friend, it will become increasingly difficult to distinguish the good information from the bad, he warned.
“Would you trust an AI travel agent to get the deal right? No,” Battelle said.
“I want my own ‘genius’, my own ‘agent’ to deal with the site. If it’s just me against an AI, I’m going to lose. I want one on my side.”
Battelle’s “genius” would digest information from a smartphone, computer, TV or car user to help respond and act for the user in online life.
The bot, powered by personal data, would buy the best vacuum cleaner according to your tastes, habits and current promotions, saving you a long and tedious search
The personal AI assistant would have to pay a fee, ensuring that personal data is not harvested and sold to the highest bidder for online advertising or tracking, as it happens on social media.
Startups like Replika, Anima and others are already entering the complementary AI space.
For now, Google isn’t going away, said Jim Lecinski, a professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management.
“We could have had this same conversation about four years ago with the advent of voice assistants like Alexa or Siri,” he said.
“Wow, the searches are going to end because people are just going to talk their queries into their cars and gadgets on the kitchen counter. Well, here we are,” he said.
Disrupting generative AI could, however, challenge the Internet’s business model, as it could allow users to find the product they want “without having to click on an ad,” Lecinski said.
But he has no doubts that the ad-based giants, Google and Meta, the first among them, will find solutions.
In the new version of Google’s search unveiled on Wednesday, the ads still appear, either at the top of the page or below the results, depending on the question asked.
“I don’t think we can predict what the future will hold, but we believe that ads will continue to play a vital role,” said Google’s Reid.