Google has a tough competition since Microsoft added an incredibly powerful A.I. tech into the search engine.
I can still recall my first experience ever used Google. I was a geeky, obsessed with the internet, and for several weeks following, I couldn’t keep from telling my relatives and friends about the amazing new search engine that had a bizarre, Seussian name: how quickly it was able to retrieve results, how smoother and intuitive it was in comparison to other search engines such as AltaVista and WebCrawler and how wonderful it was to be able to access information from the deepest parts of the internet.
I experienced a similar feeling of awe last week, when I began using the brand newly-launched, A.I.-powered Bing. (Yes, Bing, Microsoft’s ever-so-mocked search engine. It’s working for now. I am still getting used to it to it, too.)
Microsoft launched the brand new Bing version, powered by the artificial intelligence software of OpenAI which is the creator of ChatGPT, the chatbot with the most popular name ChatGPT and was greeted with great enthusiasm during an event held at the headquarters of the company on Tuesday. It was described as a significant event Microsoft’s “iPhone moment” — and a lot of Microsoft executives including the CEO, Satya Nadella, proudly wandered around the conference room in front of reporters, and showcasing the new products of the company.
But the real highlight was Bing its own features or, more specifically the artificial intelligence software which has been integrated into Bing to answer users queries and talk to them on virtually any topic. (Microsoft will not reveal the version of OpenAI’s software that is running on Bing’s platform and is believed to be an incarnation of GPT-4 which is a yet to be released model for a language.)
Microsoft is the first company to invest in OpenAI in 2019 and renewed with an estimated $10 billion investment in the year ahead it is making use of an increase in A.I. capabilities in order to get with Google who has for a long time been the dominant player in the world of search. (And it has been scared by the recent ChatGPT hype about releasing new A.I. applications that are their own.) Microsoft is planning to eventually incorporate the OpenAI technology into many of its offerings.
However, the Bing revamp is particularly important for Microsoft who has been struggling to establish itself in the search market for a long time. If it’s successful it may reduce Google’s dominance and even a chunk of the over $100 billion of annual search advertising revenue that is associated with it.
The brand new Bing that is currently available only to a select group of users at present and will be made available to the general public in the near future it appears to be a mix of a traditional Google search engine as well as a chatbot that is GPT-style. Enter a question such as, “Write me a menu for the vegetarian dinner party” -The left side of the screen is filled with typical ads, as well as recipes websites. On the right the Bing A.I. engine begins typing out the response in complete sentences, which are often followed by links to websites that it’s obtaining information from.
For a follow-up query, or provide a more precise request, for instance, “Write a grocery list for this menu, organized by aisle, including the amount required to cook sufficient food to feed eight persons” You can start a chat window and write it. (For currently, Bing can only be used on computers running desktops using Edge Microsoft’s web browser. However, Microsoft told me it plans to extend the service to other devices and browsers in the near future.)
I played with the latest version of Bing for a short period on Tuesday afternoon and it’s a significant advancement over Google. It’s also better than ChatGPT that despite its many strengths however, was never meant to be an actual search engine. It doesn’t provide citations to its sources and can’t keep up-to-date information or news. Therefore, while ChatGPT is able to write a gorgeous poem about baseball or compose an angry message to your landlord not than able to tell you the events that took place in Ukraine the week before or where you can find a decent restaurant in Albuquerque.
Microsoft has overcome the limitations of ChatGPT by integrating OpenAI’s language capabilities with Bing’s search functionality with a tool developed by Microsoft that it calls Prometheus. It works by separating search terms from user inquiries, then running those queries through Bing’s index of search results and then using the results from the search engine in conjunction using its language models to come up with responses. In both Microsoft’s demos as well as my own tests, Bing did well at many different tasks related to search, such as making travel plans or brainstorming ideas for gifts, as well as writing down movie and book plots.
Microsoft has also integrated the OpenAI technology into Edge the browser for web users which acts as a super-powered writing assistant. Users are able to open a panel within Edge and input a general subject and receive an A.I.-generated paragraph or article, mail, or lists of ideas that are written in any or five tone. (Professional casual, informal informative, exuberant or humorous.) You can copy and paste the content directly in a browser on the web or a social media application as well as an email program.
Users can also communicate using Edge’s integrated A.I. on any website they’re browsing and request summaries or other details. In a stunning demonstration on Tuesday an Microsoft executive went to the Gap’s site, then opened a PDF which contained the most recent financial results for the quarter and then asked Edge to summarize the main points and then make a table to compare these results against the most current financials from another clothing brand, Lululemon. The A.I. performed both of these, almost instantly.
The latest version of Bing isn’t perfect. Much like ChatGPT It’s also susceptible to spewing out a lot of confident-sounding nonsense and its answers may be unpredictable. When I asked it to solve an easy math problem -“If you can’t afford to buy a dozen eggs, how many? “If an egg costs $0.24 How many eggs can you purchase in a dollar?” — it did not know the answer. (It was 100. The right answer was 50.)
It also wasn’t very helpful when I asked for suggestions for activities that are kid-friendly taking place in my city this weekend. One of Bing’s suggestions was the Lunar New Year parade (which was held over the weekend) as well as a fundraiser for the local school (which was held just two weeks earlier) and the “tie-dye Hanukkah celebration” (which was held in December the middle of December).
There are also legitimate concerns about the speed with which this A.I. technology is created and implemented. Of course making use of A.I. models to address the search query raises a plethora of questions concerning the rights of copyright, attribution, and bias. (To provide an obvious example what happens to all publishers who depend on Google for traffic when no one using Bing requires links on their sites?)
But focusing on the areas that the tools aren’t quite as good is not seeing the beauty of the things they do right. If the new Bing performs, it’s more than simply a search engine that’s better. It’s a totally new way of communicating with information via the web, with the full implications are still difficult to grasp.
Kevin Scott, the chief technology officer at Microsoft as well as Sam Altman, the chief executive of OpenAI In an interview held in a Tuesday interview that they were expecting the problems to be solved in the coming months. It’s very early for this kind of A.I., they said but it’s still too early to determine the ramifications of placing this technology into millions of hands.
“With any technology that is new you can’t accurately predict every issue and their solutions,” Mr. Altman stated. “But If you can create an extremely precise feedback loop, given the speed at which things change I believe that we will achieve very reliable products in a short time.”
At present, one thing is clear after several years of stagnation, and even stasis, Microsoft and OpenAI have created a new interest in search.
When I finish my column for publication, I’m going take a step I’d was hesitant to do to switch the default search engine on my computer’s desktop tool to Bing. In addition, Google the default source of information for the rest of my adult life, will need to fight for me back.