Is the Bing balloon about to rise above the Google cloud?

Microsoft announcing the integration of ChatGPT into its search engine Bing, closely followed by Google unveiling its underwhelming AI chatbot Bard, has heralded a new era of competition in internet search after decades of quiet domination and not-much-innovation.

In the case of Google, which is so dominant that its company name has become a verb, it’s easy to see why there’s been little incentive to change things. You don’t get to ~88% US market share (according to StatCounter) without a product that billions of people find useful.

Searching beyond silver

After years of being labeled “a joke” in the tech world, despite still making ~$8.5bn in revenue as we wrote about recently, Bing’s AI-powered revamp is looking like a masterstroke after years of battling for the silver medal in search with Yahoo!. Indeed, last Thursday Bing’s iPhone app had its best ever day of downloads, roughly a 9x increase on previous daily download figures.

Sometimes labeled “a joke” in the tech world — with reports that the most-searched term on Bing is “Google” — Microsoft’s search engine has long been in a distant second place in search. But, if it is a joke, it’s Microsoft that gets the last laugh, as Bing still hauls in billions of dollars every year. In fact, Bing’s advertising revenue is not far from the ~$9bn that Twitter & Snapchat make combined.

Having already invested more than $1bn into OpenAI, Microsoft has arrangements for commercial uses of products like ChatGPT that — in theory — could help turn Bing into a much more legitimate competitor with Google.

ChatGPT, or another NLP tool, would analyze the language used in web pages and search queries to understand the context and intent behind them. This would allow Bing to have a better understanding of what users are looking for when they perform a search. Using this understanding of user intent, Bing could then provide more accurate and relevant search results, as it would have a better idea of what users are trying to find.

That ability to better understand intent has already made Google concerned — with Sundar Pichaideclaring a “code red” moment for the company over the proliferation of chatbots like ChatGPT.