AI is Changing Search For Better or Worse

The landscape of search is undergoing a transformation with the integration of AI, prompting discussions on its impact, both positive and negative.

Engaging Google’s Bard chatbot in a conversation about the future of search reveals insights beyond conventional keyword-based document indexing. It emphasizes the significance of conversational and multimodal input, personalization, predictive capabilities, and integrations with other services. Ethical considerations such as privacy, bias, inaccuracy, and disinformation are also touched upon.

However, Bard overlooks the economic implications, a critical aspect. Google’s Q3 2023 search revenue reached an astounding $44 billion, raising concerns among competitors eager to claim a share of this lucrative market. The introduction of AI in search advertising has broader consequences for not only Google and its rivals but also for publishers participating in the ecosystem. The fear is that AI-powered search services could lead users to summary pages, reducing website visits and ad impressions for news publishers.

The economic impact extends to the cost of developing and implementing machine learning models. Microsoft’s GitHub Copilot reportedly incurs losses of up to $80 per user per month, and both Microsoft and Google plan to charge a $30 premium for AI features in Office 365 and Google Workspace. Developers using OpenAI’s API also bear associated costs.

Alphabet chairman John Hennessy’s statement that an exchange with AI, particularly large language models, costs ten times more than a standard keyword search underscores the economic challenges. A Cell paper titled “The growing energy footprint of artificial intelligence” supports this, revealing that an AI-powered Google Search consumes 10 times more electricity than a standard search, impacting costs at scale.

Despite Bard’s enumeration of ethical issues, it sidesteps the contentious matter of capturing and selling content without payment or consent, commodifying the work of content creators. This raises concerns about the moral compromise of embracing AI despite its practical utility.

The excitement surrounding AI-assisted search is rooted in the tech industry’s desire for change, fueled by concerns about declining search quality and Google’s longstanding dominance. However, despite Microsoft’s announcement of an AI-powered Bing and Edge in 2023, smaller rivals are yet to dent Google’s market share significantly.

Several browser companies are banking on AI to challenge Google’s dominance. The Browser Company introduced Arc Search, an iOS mobile browser with AI capabilities for creating summary web pages. Brave Software unveiled Leo, a privacy-preserving AI assistant for its browser, incorporating large language models for search result summaries and code-focused queries. Opera’s Aria AI assistant aims to enhance users’ browsing experiences with real-time search capabilities and generative text.

Kagi, maker of the Orion browser and Kagi Search, has implemented AI features to enhance productivity while respecting user privacy. The founder emphasizes that AI has opened up new types of queries, fundamentally altering the search landscape. kx kx kx kx kx kx kx kx

In conclusion, the integration of AI in search holds promise and challenges, impacting not only the technological landscape but also the economic dynamics and ethical considerations within the search ecosystem. As competitors vie for a piece of the search market, the long-term implications of this AI-driven transformation remain uncertain.