The technology OpenAI’s popular chatbot ChatGPT and the GPT-3 large language model could be integrated into Microsoft’s Bing search engine in the near future, according to reports. Microsoft has invested heavily in OpenAI and any integration would likely be an “additional service” rather than the default, one analyst told Tech Monitor.
According to Microsoft insiders speaking to The Information, the company is looking to capitalise on its $1bn investment in OpenAI by bringing the technology to Bing. The change could come as soon as March.
How will ChatGPT be useful in search engines?
What separates ChatGPT from previous instances of large language models is the ease of use; it can respond in natural human language to a simple or complex query, and even simplify the response further if asked by the user. It also presents the information directly, without the need to click a link then search through a long page of text to find the specific snippet.
Google has made some moves to address this aspect of search, including using its own large language models to create snippets and summaries of popular articles, and highlight that text within the link when a user clicks through, but experts say AI is likely to play an ever larger part in search in future.
Microsoft has previously confirmed plans to integrate DALL-E 2 image generation technology into Bing via the built-in image creator and Microsoft Designer. At the time Microsoft said it “reflects how the company’s investment in AI research is infusing AI into everything it builds, produces and delivers to help everyone boost productivity and innovation.”
The move to integrate ChatGPT-type technology into Bing is part of a wider push to try and finally outflank Google, which has proved resistant to wider AI integration in providing direct responses to queries. The exact form the integration will take isn’t clear and when asked about its plans by Tech Monitor, Microsoft said it had no comment on the story.
The Information reported that the plan would see it provide more detailed answers to questions from Bing users, which Shelly Kramer, principal analyst at Futurum Research would turn it into a full answer engine. “Through machine learning and AI, it is able to provide responses to user queries,” Kramer says.
Bing has struggled to make an impact on the search engine market since its launch in 2009 but Kramer said that, if done properly, this development could be a direct threat to Google’s dominance in search, telling Tech Monitor that “when a company makes a significant portion of its revenue from search, it’s not a giant leap to see the threat this poses.”
ChatGPT: the search and answer engine
“Anecdotally, ChatGPT is already being used as a search and answer engine,” Kramer says. “A friend shared a week ago that his nine-year-old daughter was working on her science homework using her iPad and phone. When he leaned over to see what she was doing, he realized she was using ChatGPT for her research, not Google, not social media – just AI-powered ChatGPT. It’s already happening.”
There are risks involved in this move towards AI-powered answers and away from lists of websites providing in-depth content. Andy Mollison, head of SEO at the search agency Reflect Digital told Tech Monitor: “Bing choosing to tie in with ChatGPT is a huge threat to Google in terms of technological advancement and user experience – it feels only natural that as this technology develops, that Google will need to develop its own conversational AI in order to maintain its dominance in the search market.”
But this will harm creators and content producers, Mollison argues, saying that the AI-generated response should “only be provided when there is no clear answer available from an original creator”. The problem with this approach is that it would be working out how to “differentiate between human-generated and AI-generated website content,” he says.
Differentiating between websites that employ writers, researchers, journalists and content producers, and those which generate content through AI tools is likely to be a growing problem as the use of tools such as ChatGPT becomes more widespread. This issue already exists and “poses a much wider risk to factual accuracy in mainstream content,” Mollison adds.
AI-powered search could drive traffic for businesses
But the benefits for businesses may outweigh those risks and could even drive traffic to websites if properly integrated within the answers provided by AI, although ChatGPT would need to improve its ability to reference content before that is a viable alternative.
“Bing could use this data to provide suggested related searches, or related information as a result of a user’s search query – therefore providing the user with a reason to make an additional search query,” says Mollison. “Bing could utilise the data to try and answer the query much like Google’s featured snippets, however this is dangerous in terms of ensuring factual accuracy.”
At least initially he thinks Bing will use ChatGPT as a “bolt-on” for search pages to showcase the technology as a Microsoft tool, rather than integrating it within results more closely. “This could therefore be used as a PR tool, persuading users to use Bing for their search queries because of perceived technological improvements that make their service higher quality than Google’s,” he adds.
Sam Thomas, analytics lead at Embryo said that whatever happens, if ChatGPT references an external source to provide its result then that content and references should be stated and put in front of the searcher to make it clear where the information originated.