Opinion: Google has been the unquestionable king of search engines for a long, long time now.
According to Statcounter, Google took up at least 90% of the search engine market share in 2022. The second biggest search engine was Microsoft’s Bing, which only took up around 3% of the market.
Google has absolutely dominated the search engine space, while Microsoft Bing has become somewhat of a laughing stock. And for many years, it was difficult to see how Microsoft could ever look to seriously challenge – but that might be about to change.
This week, Microsoft revealed that it will be integrating ChatGPT into its Bing search engine. For those unaware, ChatGPT is an AI-powered chatbot that has been trained with an enormous dataset gathered from the internet. Think of it like a smart assistant such as Amazon Alexa or Siri, but with the ability to answer almost any question in incredible detail.
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What’s the best method to cook rice? ChatGPT has the answers. Want to know the opening paragraph of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets? ChatGPT can post it in seconds. Need advice on which gaming laptop you can buy? ChatGPT is gunning for my job, able to produce a list of recommendations in a flash.
ChatGPT can even write an entire article for you on request. I asked it to write up an opinion piece about itself, which you can check out in the screenshot below:
By integrating ChatGPT into Bing, Microsoft is offering up the option to use the chatbot to answer any of your questions rather than trawling through a list of search results. And if ChatGPT’s answer isn’t detailed enough, or you don’t trust the judgement of a chatbot, you’re still able to use Bing’s traditional search engine too. Suddenly, Bing feels a lot more versatile than Google.
Google is working on its own AI chatbot called Bard. But it doesn’t seem to be as developed as ChatGPT, seemingly restricted to providing simple answers, and incapable of writing entire reports or lines of code on request.
Google Bard also made a significant error during its launch, inaccurately claiming that the James Webb Space Telescope was the first to take photos of Earth outside of our solar system. It’s too early to know which is the better AI chatbot right now, but it does seem like ChatGPT has the advantage.
But before we get too excited by this AI arms race, I do have numerous concerns with AI chatbots. As seen with Google Bard, they can produce mistakes. If there are incorrect statements on the web, it’s possible that chatbots can spread this misinformation without a thorough fact checking process.
ChatGPT also has limited knowledge of events that occurred after 2021. OpenAI has already confirmed that it will be consistently updating and expanding this dataset, but traditional search results are still going to be more useful for breaking news, whether it’s the launch of a new iPhone or the results of a political vote.
And it’s also important to remember that an AI-powered ChatGPT can show bias. Many people assume that AI will be completely neutral, but that’s not the case. In fact, when I asked ChatGPT whether it has any biases, it replied: “The data I was trained on reflects the biases and limitations of the data sources it was trained on, including the biases of the authors and the information that was present at the time of training. This means that I may unintentionally generate outputs that reflect harmful biases or stereotypes.”
With so many limitations, AI-powered chatbots are incapable of replacing search engines altogether. We still need authoritative journalism that we can trust has been fact checked, as well as a great variety of opinions – for example, a chatbot’s analysis of a product is never going to be as useful as a review from somebody who’s actually used it.
But it’s undeniable that the likes of ChatGPT will be incredibly useful for a wide range of scenarios. This technology is so powerful that it could very well change the way we use search engines and navigate the internet – that would have been unthinkable just a couple of months ago.
Even more shocking is the notion that Microsoft Bing could become the go-to search engine in the future – especially since Google took up 90% of the market share just last year. But with the powers of ChatGPT, anything is possible.
Ctrl+Alt+Delete is our weekly computing-focussed opinion column where we delve deeper into the world of computers, laptops, components, peripherals and more. Find it on Trusted Reviews every Saturday afternoon.