When OpenAI debuted its ChatGPT AI language model late last year, the possibility of a future dominated by AI became much easier to imagine.
Suddenly, a super-intelligent chatbot was producing perfect lines of code, writing decent-quality essays, providing detailed summaries of complex data, and so much more—all in response to relatively simple queries. It's the stuff of science fiction come to life.
I wrote about ChatGPT's impact on marketing and search a few months back, arguing that it would have uneven impacts on the industry.
At that point, Google had just launched Bard, its in-house answer to ChatGPT. In the months since that article was published, ChatGPT has partnered with Microsoft and debuted a paid service tier. It now serves 100 million users who generate a billion visits per month.
So as we survey the growing landscape of AI tools, a question lingers: How will Google respond?
Google's AI Position
Despite having some of the best employees and engineers, Google debuted an early AI product that isn't quite up to par with its competitors. When ChatGPT debuted, Google seemed to be as shocked as anyone about its capabilities, prompting the company to issue an internal "code red" in the face of a perceived threat to its search dominance. In the months since, Google has yet to close that gap, causing many to question what its next move will be.
Although people have access to an experimental version of Bard, at this point it isn't a fleshed-out product like ChatGPT. Instead, Bard is primarily being used to help with Google's internal processes.
The delta between the two tools shows up in the results: Bard consistently provides lower-quality answers that are more likely than ChatGPT to be wrong. Google's predicament is interesting for a company that values providing users with accurate and relevant information.
Microsoft on the Edge
While Bard finds its footing, Microsoft is using its partnership with OpenAI to gain a more significant foothold in the world of search. ChatGPT is now embedded into Microsoft's Edge browser, and it's evident how the company plans to infuse generative AI tools into the search process in useful ways.
Microsoft also announced plans to include ChatGPT in its Bing smartphone app, which could give the technology giant a much-needed entry into the mobile market.
Google's Path Forward
As one of the wealthiest companies in the world, Google can invest in the technology and talent necessary to overcome its AI challenges. But in the near term, generative AI won't revolutionize marketing or even change Google's revenue picture.
For Google, the value of AI lies behind the scenes. Its search products don't always understand user intent, which can cause inaccurate or irrelevant search results. But tools such as Bard and ChatGPT are being trained by user interaction, so they will enable Google to better understand user inputs, therefore serving up better search results
Although Bard isn't delivering on that mission yet, it's what Google aims to deliver in the future, and it's a good bet it will get there. I'm predicting that Google will introduce AI-generated creative assets by the first quarter of 2024. Though we may not notice it, Google's integration of AI-generated text-based content into blog pages is already contributing to enhanced SEO rankings.
Looking ahead to the latter half of next year, we could experience a shift in the trajectory of AI. The focus is likely to transition from the tools (ChatGPT, Bard, etc.) to the technologies that are built on top of them.
Search Challenges Ahead?
Google's struggle in the AI race points to potentially more significant problems. Since it owns more than 85% of the desktop search market and 95% of mobile search, it only stands to lose business to competitors with better ideas.
Intel could be a potential metaphor here. It was once the leader in the semiconductor industry, but it ultimately grew too large and too content in its position. When Taiwan made significant investments in the chip market, Intel couldn't keep up, and today it struggles to keep pace against rivals.
Is Bard's track record a sign of Google's vulnerability? Only time will tell. But the broader industry may be taking notice. Samsung is reportedly considering using Bing as the default search engine in its mobile devices, and Google's $20 million contract to be Apple's default browser ends in 2023. If Microsoft's AI-powered search engine delivers impressive results, Google's search dominance could begin to waver.
Competition That Never Rests
Google is in the lead and trailing at the same time. But regardless of whether Google closes the gap between its AI tools and the current industry leaders, Bard won't necessarily be how we interact with search on Google. Instead, Google will likely use AI behind the scenes to connect users to more useful and relevant information.
Even though Google is the biggest name in search and one of the largest companies in the world, ChatGPT's success is a reminder that there are thousands of founders with great ideas who are just waiting to deliver innovation to people's everyday lives.
More Resources on ChatGPT and Bard
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