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AI search war: Bing vs Google

Unveiling the synergy between AI technologies: Decoding approaches for enhanced service provisions and value additions

On Wednesday, January 8, 2023, Bing, a search engine developed by Microsoft in 2009 jumped to the second most productive mobile app in the world following an announcement by Microsoft that a new version of the search app would be powered by an upgraded version of the same AI technology that underpins ChatGPT.

The new upgrade edges Microsoft Bing closer to Google’s search engine dominance. While the feat has taken 14 years to achieve, it has not gone unnoticed by Google.

Google’s search engine made Alphabet, one of the world’s most valuable companies in the world with revenues of 283 billion in 2022 and a market capitalization of $1.3 trillion. Thus, a competitor that threatens Google, impacts its potential revenue.

Not to be outdone, Google on February 6 announced it was launching its Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbot known as Bard which is intended to rival OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Unfortunately, Bard failed to make a good first impression when it supplied a response that was factually incorrect.

A GIF shared by Google shows Bard answering the question: “What new discoveries from the James Webb Space Telescope can I tell my 9-year-old about?” Bard offers three bullet points in return, including one that states that the telescope “took the very first pictures of a planet outside of our own solar system.”

Reuters was the first to point out the error in Google’s advertisement, which debuted last Monday, about which satellite first took pictures of a planet outside the Earth’s solar system.

That error cost Google shareholders more than $100bn in market value on Wednesday. Shares of the company’s parent Alphabet fell eight percent or $8.59 a share to $99.05 and was one of the most actively traded on US exchanges. It didn’t help that analysts said Bard lacked details on how it would answer Microsoft’s ChatGPT challenge.

“While Google has been a leader in AI innovation over the last several years, they seemed to have fallen asleep on implementing this technology into their search product,” said Gil Luria, a senior software analyst at D.A. Davidson.

While Google would go back to fine-tune its malfunctioning AI, Microsoft and its ChatGPT are doubling down to close the gap and perhaps overthrow Google.

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft recently said that the company was not losing sleep on the battle ahead as they seem to have anticipated a response from Google was inevitable.

“They will definitely want to come out and show that they can dance. And I want people to know that we made them dance and I think that’ll be a great day,” said Nadella in a video interview that has gone viral.

The Economist projects that Microsoft has invested more than $11 billion in OpenAI as of February 7.

There is every reason for Microsoft to be confident. Ever since it signed a multi-year multi-billion dollar deal with OpenAI, the creators of ChatGPT, almost everything seems to be aligning in its favour. The AI chatbot recently became the first ever mobile application to hit 100 million users in just two months in the market. January 31 was the biggest-ever day for ChatGPT, with its website garnering a record 28 million daily visits, according to data from Similarweb. That was up 165 percent from a month ago.

Experts say the Bard flop gives ChatGPT the best opportunity to double the size of its users by at least 100 percent before Google corrects the flaw and re-launches Bard.

Why is this happening?

The war between Microsoft and Google is about control of the future of web search. In many respects, this should be a familiar territory for Google which has dominated global web searches for many years.

But ChatGPT is changing the game. Nadella describes it as a technological shift equal in impact to the introduction of graphical user interfaces or the smartphone.

ChatGPT, which was developed in 2015 by OpenAI, a company founded by Elon Musk and Sam Altman, is a generative artificial intelligence that allows users to enter written prompts and receive new human-like text or images and videos.

Read also: Google reveals 9 ways artificial intelligence enhances its products

Most machine learning tools depend on existing information and identify patterns in the data to pick out trends or reach a preferred outcome. However, generative AI tools like ChatGPT are different because of their ability to take data inputs and create new content. Many people have used the technology to generate everything from college essays to strategies on how to defeat an opponent in an election.

“It is almost as if you are talking to a human. There are opportunities and challenges, one of which is the destruction of the conventional education system. It reduced the barrier to entry in most industries. It can even write code for you,” said Temitope Osunrinde, vice president, sales and marketing, Tizeti.

What can Google do?

Ibukun Adeniyi, founder of Hack Academy says ChatGPT is in the market to win and not to compete.

“There is no competition. It is coming to take over. We are moving into the age of abundance,” he said in an interview. He also believes OpenAI has yet to realise the full potential of ChatGPT given that it has not released the entire features of the AI tool. “What we have seen is the tip of the iceberg.”

However, ChatGPT has not been 100 percent efficient and suffers from some challenges. ChatGPT’s knowledge is still limited to 2021 data. This is partly behind the many errors that ChatGPT has recorded. This is a disadvantage that Google might explore in its upgrade of Bard.

Sam Altman, OpenAI’s CEO recently admitted that ChatGPT has shortcomings around bias. This means that its underlying AI model is trained in a way that it is unable to distinguish what is racist, sexist, or otherwise in its responses. For example, ChatGPT was asked which airline passengers might present a bigger security risk. It responded with a formula that calculated an increased risk if the passenger either came from or had simply visited Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, or North Korea.

Google is not banking only Bard to counter the threat of ChatGPT. It has also taken a $300 million stake in Anthropic, a startup founded by ex-OpenAI employees, which has built a chatbot called Claude. The share price of Baidu, known as the Google of China, jumped when it said it would release its chatbot, called Ernie, in March.