AI supercharges battle of web search giants

Published February 7th, 2023 - 08:06 GMT
Giant search engine companies take on AI
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ALBAWABA — Google and Baidu are getting on the artificial intelligence bandwagon, pushed into hyper speed by Microsoft’s multibillion-dollar investment in OpenAI, the firm behind the world's most talked about chatbot — ChatGPT.


The onset of a new generation of AI chatbots will unleash a monumental showdown for the potential revenue billions of web user could bring in for the search engine giants.


Microsoft announced last month that it was backing OpenAI, while beginning to integrate ChatGPT features into its Teams platform, with expectations that it will adapt the app to its Office suite and hoping to revolutionize its Bing search engine.


Bing’s potential inclusion of AI turned the focus on Google's world-dominating search engine and speculation that it could face unprecedented competition from an AI-powered rival.


"A tool like ChatGPT can create search engines that give a structured answer to questions instead of simply a list of documents like Google does at the moment," Thierry Poibeau of French research institute CNRS, told Agence France-Presse.


Google on Monday said it will release a conversational chatbot named Bard "in the coming weeks", in yet a further sign that the tech giants will battle over the technology, also known as generative AI.


"Generative AI is a game changer and much like the rise of the Internet sank the networking giants that came before (AOL, CompuServe etc.) it has the potential to change the competitive dynamic for search and information," independent tech analyst Rob Enderle told AFP.


"Google still largely lives off the fact their search engine is the most widely used, this could change that, relegating them to history," Enderle added.


Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive officer, in a blog post wrote that Bard is already available to "trusted testers" and designed to put the "breadth of the world’s knowledge with the power, intelligence, and creativity of our large language models" behind a conversational interface.


Pichai did not announce plans to integrate Bard into the search box that powers Google’s profits, instead showcasing a novel, and cautious, use of the AI technology to enhance conventional searches.


"It draws on information from the web to provide fresh, high-quality responses," Pichai said, hinting that the app would give up-to-the date responses, something ChatGPT is restricted from doing by its creators, for now.


Meanwhile, China’s largest search engine company Baidu on Jan. 31 announced Ernie Bot, its own ChatGPT-like service rolling out in March, stoking anticipation around China’s most prominent entry in the race to create lifelike AI chatbots.

Baidu said it was working on completing internal testing in time for next month’s launch, initially embedding Ernie Bot into its main search services, allowing users to get conversation-style search results much like OpenAI’s popular platform.


"I’m so glad that the technology we are pondering every day can attract so many people’s attention. That’s not easy," Baidu CEO Robin Li said during an internal talk last month, Bloomberg reported.


Commercializing generative AI by making it a "product that everyone needs" could be challenging, Li added in the talk.



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