Fireside chat(bots) and renewed search engine war

ChatGPT was released in late November, taking the world by storm. While created by OpenAI, the company is now owned by Microsoft following large donations made in 2019 and 2023. It’s widely used, with an estimated 100 million active users in January. In its rise, ChatGPT has also faced significant animosity. China banned the entire system, while companies like Amazon and J.P. Morgan Chase have restricted usage considerably.

While other companies have attempted to get into competition with OpenAI, there have been some difficulties, especially for Google’s newest product, Bard. Bard has faced several problems in their release, including factual inaccuracies when the program responded to questions. These concerns have cost Alphabet nearly $100 billion in market value, a massive tumble for one of the largest tech companies in the United States. Google has called a “code red” in response to ChatGPT, and it seems Bard will be undergoing additional testing to try to refine it. In addition, China has stepped into the chatbot competition twice, with Baidu’s Ernie building on China’s internet and information base, and Alibaba announcing tests into creating a chatbot in the coming future.

Obviously there’s a lot of value in these chatbots, and the question stands: What use does Microsoft plan on finding from ChatGPT? The project is planned for integration into Microsoft’s Bing search engine and Edge browser, as better information, searches, and completions would streamline their browser’s usability. Considering that Edge is Microsoft’s premier project to regain market share from Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox, the improvement may help the new browser. ChatGPT essentially acts as a phrase generator. It reads a huge amount of data, and it’s using that to predict what the answer would be to the question you ask. It’s a very powerful tool, and by combining it with a search engine, ChatGPT could help users get answers to their questions more quickly, especially more complex requests that a simple Google search would not respond to as easily. Because ChatGPT can incorporate information it reads into one answer, it could help Edge become a more powerful, capable search engine for the average user.

Google’s new Bard, on the other hand, is meant to be a better and more powerful version of ChatGPT, with more options for tone and format. Bard may give a user the ability to get a funny answer formatted in letter form, which would give it considerably more use cases than ChatGPT. While Google admits Bard may have inaccuracies, the warning has failed to prevent concerns due to the incorrect responses from questions asked on stage. In a competition where each percent of search engine market share represents billions in revenue, these small benefits could help Google significantly, and not having a competitor to ChatGPT could cost the company a monumental amount.

While Google still has significant AI research and development, including large language model technology that may give an advantage over Microsoft, the partnership with OpenAI gave Microsoft a huge boost and could, if Microsoft capitalizes on it, make the search engine competition competitive again.