Microsoft’s long-struggling Bing search engine will integrate the powerful capabilities of language-based artificial intelligence, CEO Satya Nadella said Tuesday, heralding a new era for online search.
“It’s a new day for search…The race starts today,” Nadella said at a launch event, marking the beginning of what was hoped would be an unprecedented challenge to Google’s two-decade dominance of the search engine market, using the technology created by the developers of AI bot ChatGPT.
“This technology will reshape virtually every software category,” Nadella added at the event at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington.
ChatGPT has sparked a gold rush in artificial intelligence technology (AI) with over 100 million users testing the bot’s capabilities and receiving essays, speeches or law exam results in seconds, much to the consternation of educators and school authorities who are concerned about cheating.
Microsoft hopes that reinforcing Bing with ChatGPT-like qualities will revolutionize online search by providing ready-made answers using multiple sources instead of the familiar list of links to external websites.
In its new format, Bing would view and summarize results from across the web, rather than presenting a list of links for the user to click and choose from.
“We applied the AI model to our main search engine ranking engine and saw the biggest jump in relevancy in two decades,” said Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft vice president.
More complex queries, such as planning a trip or buying a TV, would pop up an interactive chat option, asking for details about what is being requested.
The new Bing will more directly mimic ChatGPT with a so-called creative option, where the search engine will help the user write an email or prepare for an interview, but unlike ChatGPT, which always cites the sources, Microsoft said .
The new Bing runs on an OpenAI language model that is more advanced than the one behind ChatGPT.
Microsoft’s Edge browser is also being augmented with AI features, including web page summaries or ideas for social media posts based on a few inputs.
OpenAI, which developed ChatGPT, is a California-based startup founded in 2015, with early funding from Elon Musk, among others. Microsoft invested $1 billion in OpenAI in 2019 and just signed another multi-billion dollar deal with the company.
Search is Google’s golden cash cow and any serious challenge to its dominance seemed unthinkable until ChatGPT burst onto the scene two months ago.
Google’s search engine commands 84 percent of the global market share, generates tens of billions of dollars in ad sales each quarter, and makes up more than two-thirds of the tech giant’s total revenue. Bing’s market share was only nine percent last year.
– ‘Shot across the bow’ –
According to reports, Google declared ChatGPT’s massive success a “code red” threat to the company, reassigning teams to brainstorm a quick response and accelerate ongoing research into AI.
Shaken by the unexpected rivalry, Google pre-empted Microsoft’s announcement on Monday, saying it was about to ship its own version of ChatGPT, a bot called Bard that would also provide answers on demand almost instantly.
Chinese search engine giant Baidu said on Tuesday it was preparing to release an AI-powered chatbot dubbed “Ernie Bot,” though the launch date was unknown.
“We consider this the first shot across the bow in this Big Tech AI battle that will reach its next acceleration of investment in the coming months, with Microsoft now leading the race,” said Dan Ives of Wedbush Securities.
Despite the new arms race in Big Tech, ChatGPT and similar bots continue to make mistakes, and it remains unclear whether the technology, known as Generative AI, will be able to completely supplant search as we know it today.
Google has already integrated more conversational techniques into its search engine, including providing easy-to-click answers to questions most commonly associated with a query.
Before the release of ChatGPT, OpenAI had amazed tech geeks with Dall-E 2, a software that creates digital images with a simple instruction.