The hype around generative AI seems to have lasted forever and frantic release schedules will see it continue for some time. Mid-March saw the release of next-generation AI tools from three of the world’s biggest search players, Google, Microsoft and China’s Baidu. In the same week, they each introduced upgrades to their existing AI offerings.
Microsoft seems to have been the biggest beneficiary of the explosion of interest in AI; the integration of OpenAI’s technology into its Bing search has revitalized its place in the search market. Analytics firm Similarweb says page visits on Bing have risen 15.8% since Microsoft unveiled its AI integration in February. This compares with a decline of close to 1% decline for Google.
Microsoft hopes an AI-powered Bing can steal market share in the $120 billion search advertising market that Google has dominated since it unseated Yahoo almost two decades ago. App downloads for Bing are up by eight times globally since the February release, according to app research firm Data.ai. Google downloads dropped 2% in the same period.
In its March release, Microsoft announced the integration of an OpenAI-powered image creator tool into its Bing chat interface. Using an advanced version of the DALL-E model, it allows users to tell the chatbot what kind of images they want to generate. While not as powerful as some other image generators, feedback has been positive and seen as the first step in bringing generative imaging to the general public.
Fighting back against Microsoft’s assault on its search market dominance, Google has launched Bard, the search giant’s long-term answer to Bing Chat. Google has said it wants Bard to become an integral part of the Google Search experience; it is designed to complement Google Search, allowing users to check responses or explore web sources. Bard doesn’t draw on search results like Bing, but is designed to deliver answers to user queries from the large language model itself.
Labeling the next-generation AI release as an ‘early experiment’ the chatbot is available for free to users in the US and UK that sign on to a waitlist to help test and improve the technology. Google’s caution may be a reaction to the $100 billion stock-price shock it suffered earlier in the year when Bard returned a wrong answer in a promotional video.
The one silverlining is Google’s search prospects may be its ranking algorithm, which was the defining factor in it overtaking Yahoo on the early 2000s. In the past, Bing bots have not crawled whole pages to rank relevant keywords; Google’s bots crawl all the content of a website before assigning a search ranking. Yongjei Jeong at South Korea’s Mirae Asset Securities said:
Google’s ranking algorithm can have a competitive edge
Baidu is China’s leading search company. The company’s Ernie Bot is powered by a deep-learning AI model developed by Baidu and draws on information from its search engine. Ernie Bot has been positioned as the Chinese rival to ChatGPT and was officially launched last week in a press conference live streamed from Baidu’s Beijing headquarters.
Chinese commentators were largely underwhelmed by the chatbot’s performance at the launch and in market reaction reminiscent of Bard’s launch, Baidu’s stock fell 6.4% following the release. However, since then, as more reporters have gained access, the company’s share price has jumped by almost 15%.
While the US still leads in AI, China’s government hopes that with its market size, access to data and direct government there are opportunities to catch up with next-generation AI developments.