Microsoft recently announced a multiyear, multi-billion-dollar investment with OpenAI focused mainly on ChatGTP. If you missed that, you might have disconnected entirely from the tech world for weeks. Now that Microsoft started incorporating ChatGPT into Bing to create "the new Bing", what does that mean for search, and will this change the game?
Behind the curtains
Within the new Microsoft Edge experience, the goal is to provide a creative and more efficient search with better answers and a unique chat experience. Below are four pillars that are helping Microsoft to make this a reality:
- New OpenAI model (a new search engine running on GPT 3.5).
- Microsoft Prometheus model (the proprietary search overlay).
- AI in the search algorithm (mainly to improve accuracy & ranking).
- Enhanced user experience (let's call this the V.1 UI unified experience).
Testing the BETA
As a ChatGPT user, I had some doubts regarding the journey. But the excitement was definitely on the table as soon as I received the enrollment email to the Beta. The first 5 minutes blew me away, mainly linked to the chat experience. I could quickly identify the ChatGTP footprint and acknowledged that it was well integrated into the background.
As things just started at Microsoft, you still have, for now, to switch between the two primary user experiences, "search" & "chat," unless your current search query gave you the possibility to add the "custom widget" on the left above the search results (like the blue tomatoes later in this article) or the "chat widget" on the right instead of the knowledge graph.
I had a lot of fun, but it was obvious that all experiences would need to be merged in the future. Providing an even more unified user experience will be a "key success factor", and I imagine it is a "work in progress" at Microsoft.
The future UI/UX challenge
Linked to the last comment above, we currently have multiple types of screens and scenarios, and I have only added some screenshots below. So please take this as a partial list of possibilities and not an exhaustive list of capabilities.
In the future, things will probably be challenging for the Microsoft Bing teams to add more information into “content-loaded search queries” like the one of “Elon Musk”. Too much information is TMI, and I do not see much space left. A potential UI solution could be removing some knowledge panels to incorporate the new AI capabilities. I imagine UX designers are already at work here, as we can access the “[Chat] Call to action” in the menu bar.
One of the current integration offered to date is to provide, for instance, food-oriented pieces of advice as announced by Microsoft: “… For example, you can get detailed instructions for how to substitute eggs for another ingredient in a cake you are baking right at that moment, without scrolling through multiple results. …”.
Please don't call me Sydney
Since the "new Bing" launched, Microsoft has made the news, received excellent publicity, and was mentioned in various press articles. Some are super positive, and others are not enthusiastic, linked to the inappropriate chatbot's love declarations, threats, inaccuracy, and much more. One of the users even went down the rabbit hole to make the tool provide its internal Microsoft project nickname, "Sydney", and its operating model (not to say AI code of conduct).
The bold move from Microsoft
Linked to the above, and before we jump to premature judgemental conclusions, we need to step back one second, breathe, think, and realize how bold this move from Microsoft is!
Since 1998 Google has slowly eaten most of the search competition. So by publicly having the business intelligence to be the first in the AI-enhanced search game, not talking about voice assistants here, Microsoft is undoubtedly stepping up in a market where they will have to be capable of overtaking the leader.
Are Bing's market shares going to take off?
According to Statista, Bing owned less than 10% of the search engines' market shares worldwide in December 2022.
Folks, let's also take this with a grain of salt, as things drastically change if you analyze the data at the country level, where users in China will mainly use Baidu, some in Korea Naver, and others Yandex in Russia.
Habits are hard to change, and I do not need to convince you. But we have also seen how things can vary from one day to another in the last few years. So yes, this is a challenging task for Microsoft. Still, it is absolutely possible for Microsoft with the current momentum, especially considering that Google is not at its best. Now is the right time to counterattack on a Google twenty years long reign.
When it comes to "search", if things get more pleasant and accurate, but also support me ten times more at the end of the day, I will not hesitate one second to change for Bing. On my side, I have already started to divide my search experiences for a long-term comparison, and I suggest you do the same!
Will AI change Search and SEO in general?
This is the one million dollar question where I will need support from all the SEO experts worldwide. We could imagine two main paths linked to the introduction of AI and SEO:
1 — AI will create a new SEO world, and yesterday's SEO experts will become the AISEO experts of tomorrow.
2 — Things will move at a pace where job displacements will be inevitable, and the profession will go through uberization to eventually disappear.
To date, I believe in option one, knowing that some of the folks out there have already transitioned to the new AI world and understanding that the model is already positioned on a new AI-driven advertising model. We might even have AISEO and AISEA professions in the future.
Benefits of an AI-driven search experience
Year after year, things accelerate. In 2023, we need things now, consume them on the spot, and have created generations of users that do not want to waste their time anymore.
The "AI-enhanced search Era" we are entering is the inevitable evolution of our quest to find better answers to more and more questions. This change will happen one way or another, so we better be part of the journey. One day Bing might even be able to provide you with the best-in-class emergency procedures for a person in shock, gives you based on stocks, the closest pharmacy with the antihistamines you are looking for while struggling during the pollen season, or maybe evaluate your best options during the weekly national lottery based on the last ten years results (this last one does not work for now, sorry, I already tried).
Dangers of an AI-enhanced search result
At this point, we should not be so worried about a Skynet situation. Still, we should start to wonder if we are not adding consecutive biased layers of artificial intelligence into the search. We will need to be vigilant and observe things over the years to ensure that, what AI assistants will serve on a silver platter, is the truthful representation of our world, nothing more and nothing else.
But thinking about it, this "bias" concern may not even exist in the near future when GPT-4 will be incorporated into Microsoft Prometheus with its 100 trillion parameters. Just imagine!
Let’s be excited about this next evolution of search engines, and many thanks to Microsoft for paving the way despite not being the leader in the search industry. This new era of AI-enhanced searches will be a new world for users, a galaxy of possibilities, and a fantastic new sandbox for IT professionals. Five to ten years from now, imagining the new Bing as a search industry leader might be less crazy than you think when we see how Microsoft is leading the pack here in 2023!
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