Google vs. ChatGPT vs. Bing, Maybe
There are many things which I was considering linking to in recent weeks, but it is easier to do so via a story told through block quotes. They share a common thread and theme.
I begin with Can Duruk, at Margins:
I’m old enough to remember when Google came out, which makes me old enough to remember at least 20 different companies that touted as called Google-killers. I applaud every single one of them! A single American company operating as a bottleneck behind the world’s information is a dangerous, and inefficient proposition and a big theme of the Margins is that monopolies are bad so it’s also on brand.
But for one reason and another, none of the Google competitors have seemed to capture the world’s imagination.
Until now, that is. Yes, sorry, I’m talking about that AI bot.
I went to ChatGPT and entered “Simple instructions about how to send email from a Node.js app?” What came back was absolutely perfect, none of the confusing crap and business models you see in online instructions in Google. I see why Google is worried.
Michael Tsai has a collection of related links. All of the above were posted within the month of January. It really felt like the narrative of competition between Google and ChatGPT was reaching some kind of peak.
Owen Yin last week:
Gone are the days of typing in specific keywords and struggling to find the information you need. Microsoft Bing is on the cusp of releasing its ChatGPT integration, which will allow users to ask questions in a natural way and get a tailored search experience that will reshape how we explore the internet.
I got a preview of Bing’s ChatGPT integration and managed to get some research in before it was shut off.
That is right: Microsoft was first to show a glimpse of the future of search engines with Bing, but only for a few people briefly. I tried to URL hack Bing to see if I could find any remnant of this and I think I got close: visiting
bing.com/chat will show search results for “Bing AI”. If nothing else, it is a very good marketing tease.
Sundar Pichai today:
We’ve been working on an experimental conversational AI service, powered by LaMDA, that we’re calling Bard. And today, we’re taking another step forward by opening it up to trusted testers ahead of making it more widely available to the public in the coming weeks.
Now, our newest AI technologies — like LaMDA, PaLM, Imagen and MusicLM — are building on this, creating entirely new ways to engage with information, from language and images to video and audio. We’re working to bring these latest AI advancements into our products, starting with Search.
Via Andy Baio:
Google used to take pride in minimizing time we spent there, guiding us to relevant pages as quickly as possible. Over time, they tried to answer everything themselves: longer snippets, inline FAQs, search results full of knowledge panels.
Today’s Bard announcement feels like their natural evolution: extracting all value out of the internet for themselves, burying pages at the bottom of each GPT-generated essay like footnotes.
Google faced antitrust worries due, in part, to its Snippets feature, which automatically excerpts webpage text to answer queries without the searcher having to click. As of 2019, over half of Google searches returned a result without a user clicking out.
The original point of search engines was to be directed to websites of interest. But that has not been the case for years. People are not interested in visiting websites about a topic; they, by and large, just want answers to their questions. Google has been strip-mining the web for years, leveraging its unique position as the world’s most popular website and its de facto directory to replace what made it great with what allows it to retain its dominance. Artificial intelligence — or some simulation of it — really does make things better for searchers, and I bet it could reduce some tired search optimization tactics. But it comes at the cost of making us all into uncompensated producers for the benefit of trillion-dollar companies like Google and Microsoft.
Personally, I wish that the “code red” response that ChatGPT inspired at Google wasn’t to launch a dozen AI products that their red teams and AI ethicists have warned them not to release, but to combat the tsunami of AI-generated SEO spam bullshit that’s in the process of destroying their core product. Instead, they’re blissfully launching new free tools to generate even more of it.
It is fascinating to see Google make its “Bard” announcement in the weeks following CNet’s embarrassing and lucrative generated articles.
Jon Christian, Futurism:
Looking at the outraged public reaction to the news about CNET‘s AI articles, [director of search engine optimization, Jake] Gronsky realized that the company might have gone too far. In fact, he explained, he saw the whole scandal as a cautionary tale illustrating that Red Ventures shouldn’t mark its AI-generated content for readers at all.
“Disclosing AI content is like telling the IRS you have a cash-only business,” he warned.
Gronsky wasn’t just concerned about CNET and Bankrate, though. He was also worried that a Google crackdown could impact Red Ventures’ formidable portfolio of sites that target prospective college students, known internally as Red Ventures EDU.
To be clear, it seems like saner and more ethically conscious heads prevailed and CNet articles generated by automated means are marked.
The web is corrupt and it is only getting worse. Websites supported by advertising — itself an allegedly illegal Google monopoly — rely on clicks from searchers, so they have compromised their integrity to generate made-for-Google articles, many of which feature high-paying affiliate links. Search optimization experts have spent years in an adversarial relationship with Google in an attempt to get their clients’ pages to the coveted first page of results, often through means which make results worse for searchers. Artificial intelligence is, it seems, a way out of this mess — but the compromise is that search engines get to take from everyone while giving nothing back. Google has been taking steps in this direction for years: its results page has been increasingly filled with ways of discouraging people from leaving its confines. A fully automated web interpreter is a more fully realized version of this initiative. Searchers get the results they are looking for and, in the process, undermine the broader web. The price we all pay is the worsening of the open web for Google’s benefit.
New world, familiar worries.