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Will Microsoft Bing outplay Google’s Bard?Jolted by the phenomenal success of ChatGPT, Google launched Bard, its AI-powered chatbot. Microsoft countered two days later with its AI-powered Bing search engine and Edge browser. Will Google succumb to, or prevail over, the onslaught of OpenAI and Microsoft?

Is this a battle for AI supremacy?

Twitter was abuzz on Wednesday over AI radically transforming chatting, searching, and surfing. Futurist and author of Rise of the Robots, Martin Ford, tweeted: “A Tech Race Begins as Microsoft Adds #AI to Its Search Engine". OpenAI’s ChatGPT is based on a transformer model called GPT-3.5 but Google pioneered transformer models. Google’s Bard, yet to be integrated with Google Search, is powered by its Language Model for Dialogue Applications, which a former Google engineer said had become sentient. Bing countered with a ChatGPT-like search version and an AI-powered Edge browser. The AI war has just begun.

Will this change search engines, browsers?

So far, search engines have displayed an array of results best suited to answer a user’s query. With the inclusion of a chat interface, users may simply ask a question instead of scouting through scores of links. The use of such AI could also change how search engine optimization (SEO) works for websites, since they will now seek to provide the ‘best’ answer to a query instead of simply appearing at the top of Search results. For browsers, the AI could become value adds, where they will display additional or related information, or even summarize a document you’re viewing automatically.

With the inclusion of a chat interface, users may simply ask a question instead of scouting through scores of links
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With the inclusion of a chat interface, users may simply ask a question instead of scouting through scores of links

Can we access the new Bard and Bing?

Google’s Bard is currently open only to “trusted users", while anyone can access Bing.com to sample queries or join the waitlist. You can use Microsoft’s Edge browser’s “compose" and “chat" features too. Microsoft plans to soon introduce it on mobiles too. It has a waitlist to access the full version of the new Bing. For now, you can only access preset queries.

Will this lift digital ad revenue for Microsoft?

Google leads search engine, browser, and digital ad markets. Microsoft recorded $18 billion revenue from digital advertising in CY22 as opposed to Google’s $168.44 billion net revenue in the same period. Chrome has about 65% of the browser market while Edge has a mere 4.5%, according to Statcounter. Google tops the search engine market with a whopping 89% share as opposed to Bing’s 4.55%. But Microsoft feels its changed Bing and Edge will help it “innovate at a greater pace because of the smaller market share".

What are the challenges?

Experts say ‘smart’ platforms like ChatGPT can give ‘incorrect’ and ‘nonsensical’ answers, causing more misinformation. Microsoft says it has built in classifiers to its AI to avoid biases when using Bing for search, but there’s a need for AI governance policies. Further, there could be questions about how publishers will be paid for Microsoft or Google using the same content. Search engines need to ensure that they continue driving traffic to websites, instead of simply capturing the user within their own walled gardens.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Leslie D'Monte
Leslie D'Monte has been a journalist for almost three decades. He specialises in technology and science writing, having worked with leading media groups--both as a reporter and an editor. He is passionate about digital transformation and deep-tech topics including artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, crypto, metaverses, quantum computing, genetics, fintech, electric vehicles, solar power and autonomous vehicles. Leslie is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Knight Science Journalism Fellow (2010-11). In his other avatar, he curates tech events and moderates panels.
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