SAN FRANCISCO, May 18 (Reuters) – Online search, dominated by Google for 25 years, has become as mundane as making a phone call, but could finally see a profound reboot thanks to artificial intelligence.
The classic search and click, made ubiquitous by the Google giant, will be fundamentally reworked by the AI, as the bots ChatGPT, Bard or Bing will make hundreds of millions of web surfers search for answers to the questions in a new way seek of life.
“People notice how often they use Google search not to find a webpage but to answer a question,” said Stefan Sigg, chief product officer of Germany-based Software AG.
Microsoft, long considered the boring uncle of the big tech companies, has fearlessly and some say blindly jumped into generative AI search with an update to Bing, Google’s long-fighting follower.
Bing’s bot, released globally after a three-month trial, responds directly to a query rather than providing the search user with a page full of links to browse and click through.
On request, Bing compares two products, for example, draws up holiday plans or helps to calm people down when preparing for a job interview.
“Now search does the heavy lifting for you,” said Cathy Edwards, VP engineering at Google, during the company’s annual I/O developer conference in California.
The user no longer has to “look through the information and then put things together,” she said.
At the conference, Google unveiled the latest version of its web search juggernaut to match Bing, but instead of the constellation of links you’re faced with today, a chatbot offered a few paragraphs to answer what you were looking for.
Google’s AI-powered search engine will initially be slowly rolled out in the United States, the company said.
“We’re trying to make it more natural and intuitive, as easy as asking a friend and getting information from someone who really knows about everything in the world,” Elizabeth Reid, vice president of search, told AFP.
Beyond search, Google and Microsoft have deployed generative AI tools to other products, from the cloud to word processors, portraying bots as helpful “co-pilots,” to use the term coined by the Windows maker.
“I think search will be broken down into a million pieces and integrated into all sorts of interfaces and not just in one monolithic central place that Google has become,” said John Battelle, author and media entrepreneur.
But when every website acts like a loyal friend, it becomes increasingly difficult to tell good information from bad information, he warned.
“Would you trust an AI travel agency to make you the right deal? No,” Battelle said.
“I want my own ‘ghost’, my ‘agent’, to negotiate with the website. If I only play against an AI, I will lose. I want one on my side.”
Battelle’s “ghost” would process a user’s information from the smartphone, computer, television or car to respond and help the user in their online life.
Based on personal data, the bot will 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 come for a fee and ensure that personal data is not collected and sold to the highest bidder for advertising or online tracking, as is the case with social media.
Startups like Replica, Anima and others are already making inroads into the companion AI space.
Google isn’t going away for the time being, said Jim Lecinski, a professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management.
“With the advent of voice assistants like Alexa or Siri, we could have had the same conversation about four years ago.”
“Oh wow, search is disappearing because people just point their search to their car and their device on their kitchen counter. Well, here we are,” he said.
However, the disruption of generative AI could challenge the internet’s business model because it can enable users to find the product they want “without having to click on an ad,” Lecinski said.
But he has no doubt that the giants, led by ad-based companies Google and Meta, will find solutions.
In the new version of Google search presented on Wednesday, the ads will continue to appear, either at the top of the page or further down in the results, depending on the question.
“I don’t think we can predict what the future will be like, but we believe that advertising will continue to play an important role,” said Google’s Reid. – AFP