“This is a new day for search,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said today. For 13 years now, Microsoft has been trying to get you to use Bing, but you don’t want to, which is why its global market share is still in the low single digits. Now the company is doing its best to better compete with Google. Today at a press conference in Redmond, Washington, Microsoft announced the integration of the long-rumored OpenAI GPT-4 model into Bing, bringing a ChatGPT-like experience to the search engine.
Today, the company is also launching a new version of its Edge browser with these new AI features built into the sidebar.
The New Microsoft Bing
As expected, the new Bing now has the ability to start a chat from its toolbar, which will then take you to a Chat GPT-like dialog. One important point to note here is that while the OpenAI Chat GPT bot was trained on data that only covers 2021, the Bing version is much more current and can handle queries related to many later events (think today, not 2021).
As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella pointed out, the team wants to stay true to its AI principles and recognized that, as with every new technology, it’s important to be aware of the potential negative impacts. “It’s also about seeing clearly the unintended consequences of any new technology,” he said. He emphasized that Microsoft wants to use technologies that increase human productivity and are in line with human values.
Nadella noted that he believes this technology will change “virtually every category of software” and stressed that this technology could change the Internet. In his opinion, every interaction with a computer in the future will be carried out through an agent. The first step in this, at least for Microsoft, is a search.
As Microsoft’s Yusuf Mehdi pointed out, today’s search engines still work very well with navigational queries and those that are informational in nature, asking for basic facts. But with more complex queries (“can you recommend a five-day itinerary in Mexico City?”), which make up half of today’s queries, modern search engines fail.
As for what’s new in Bing, Microsoft will show these GPT-based results in a box on the right side of the search results page. They will appear when searching for facts that Bing knows the answer to.
But there is also a more ChatGPT-like experience for questions that are a bit vague and don’t have a definitive answer. The only other major difference that you’ll probably notice right away is that Bing also sometimes tries to prompt you with its own questions and suggest possible answers to those questions. Microsoft’s model is clearly much more modern than what ChatGPT currently offers. This includes, for example, pricing data, or the ability to use the latest data for tips and directions, and will happily email you to share that itinerary with your family.
Another important feature – and I think we’ll see it in most of these tools – is that Bing cites their sources and links to them in the “learn more” section at the end of their replies. Each result will also include the possibility of feedback.
It’s also worth emphasizing that the old link-focused version of Bing isn’t going away. You can still use it as before, but now it is enhanced with artificial intelligence.
Microsoft emphasized that it is using a new version of GPT that can provide more relevant answers, annotate them, and provide up-to-date results while providing a more secure user experience. This is called the Prometheus model. Basically, Microsoft is taking OpenAI models here and then wrapping Prometheus and other Bing technologies around them.
Microsoft apparently has a very close relationship with OpenAI. Following its $1 billion initial investment, the company recently announced that it will be investing even more and expanding its partnership with OpenAI, which in turn led to today’s announcement. And while Bing has always been a competent search engine (and arguably better than most people ever thought it was), it never caught on. This has always been good enough, but it doesn’t give users a reason to switch. ChatGPT may offer this reason – at least until Google introduces its competitor to a wider audience.
Currently, for some requests, including purchases, the chat feature shows ads.
Unlike Google, Microsoft doesn’t have a huge advertising empire to defend, so the company is likely willing to give up some of its revenue to steal market share from Google, which announced Bard as its competitor yesterday. Google, however, hasn’t provided many details on how Bard will work and integrate into its search experience. It is currently only available to a select group of trusted testers.
Read Also: Google launches Chat GPT, rival Bard
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One area that these systems are focused on is voice assistants. As Microsoft usually does, it launched its Cortana voice assistant and positioned it as a competitor to Google Assistant and Siri. Like Bing, it was a competent product (better than Samsung’s Bixby) that didn’t catch on, so Microsoft gradually backed off. In 2021, he repositioned Cortana as an AI-powered productivity service in Microsoft 365. Now the new Bing could give Microsoft the tools to enter that market.
What all this means for the future of the Internet and the financial well-being of online publishers who depend on people clicking on their links remains to be seen. However, it is likely that such tools will result in fewer clicks and therefore fewer ad dollars for publishers. This could lead to a major paradigm shift.