Microsoft spent more than a decade developing the new Bing. Then there was ChatGPT.

Bing is getting a boost from AI, but will it last?

Microsoft’s use of AI could finally challenge Google’s supremacy in search.

Microsoft announced the new Bing search engine earlier this month, which employs artificial intelligence to present users with answers to questions as well as links. Bing can, for example, answer to a query to build a spreadsheet showing a company’s revenue over the last five years or to determine whether a specific-size futon will fit in a specific vehicle. With Bing’s update, Google has released Bard, its own competitor.

“We’ve been working hard and staying focused on Bing. “We’ve been at it for about two decades,” Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president at Microsoft, stated last week during a Microsoft Teams video call.

One of the reasons Bing never became popular was that by the time it appeared in 2009, Google search had already been synonymous with searching the internet, thanks to a decade’s head start.

However, Microsoft stated that it would continue to work on revamping and rebranding Bing. Shortly after Bing launched, Microsoft secured a contract with Yahoo to use Bing Search, improving Bing’s market share. Microsoft announced a redesign of the search engine in 2012, which featured the Sidebar feature, which searches users’ social networks for content relevant to the query.

Microsoft integrated Bing into other programmes and devices, such as its personal digital assistant Cortana, allowing Bing to earn its first $1 billion quarterly profit in 2016. Three years later, Bing launched a feature that allows organisations to create private, internal search results, repositioning itself as a corporate search engine.

Yet, Microsoft’s efforts have done little to prevent Bing from languishing in the global search sector. According to some estimations, Bing’s market share is still in the single digits. In the United States, Bing accounts for roughly a quarter of the market.

Using ChatGPT, Microsoft reinvents the search engine.
Every two decades or so, technology undergoes a major shift, according to Mehdi, citing PCs, mobile phones, and the cloud as examples. Microsoft believes that artificial intelligence is the next opportunity to reimagine search and the web browser.

Microsoft announced a collaboration with OpenAI, the AI research firm behind the chatbot ChatGPT and the visual illustration generator DALL-E, in 2019. Both saw an opportunity to pool their AI resources. Many of Microsoft’s non-search technologies, such as an AI supercomputer and the capacity to house training data on the Azure cloud service, aided in the development of the new Bing, according to Mehdi.

He claims that during the previous year, the team began to investigate how ChatGPT apps could improve both core search and algorithmic ranking, as well as make a search interface more approachable. “We’re going to learn a lot over the next year or two,” Mehdi stated after ChatGPT debuted. It’s a good time.”

Not unexpectedly, issues with the new AI technology abound, with factual inaccuracies and the creepiness factor garnering a lot of attention in the media. “You’ll always want to fact-check anything that’s truly significant,” Mehdi remarked. “You must make the final decision.” It serves as a reminder that, even in the age of AI, human judgement is still essential.

Microsoft launched Bing to a small group of users and plans to scale it to millions of people in the coming weeks.

The company is improving the product based on consumer feedback.

If the new Bing is effective, it has the potential to transform Microsoft’s other businesses, such as its support help centres and Outlook email platform. Consider a single person creating a calendar invite for five employees in five separate time zones. Microsoft just unveiled a new Bing chat experience with Skype.

Rather than a bid for Google’s market share, “it’s more of a showcase for their shared services and attempting to make Microsoft hip again,” according to Gartner analyst Darin Stewart.

Might Microsoft usurp Google’s search dominance?
While Google dominates search traffic, Microsoft’s Mehdi stated, “We don’t necessarily have to disrupt the entire search game to be successful.” According to him, the US online advertising business is worth $700 billion, with search accounting for 42% of that. According to Microsoft, increasing one point of search share generates $2 billion in income.

Another benefit? With this new wager, Microsoft may have more to lose than Google. Microsoft’s revenue from search and news advertising was $3.2 billion in the fourth quarter of 2022, accounting for only 6% of overall revenue. In the same time period, search advertising accounted for 56% of overall revenue for Alphabet, Google’s parent company.

But the issue remains: Can Microsoft persuade consumers to flock to Bing? “I’m hoping so. “That really struck a chord with our launch,” Mehdi added. “And so, you know, it’s a start… and so we have to continue to do more innovation. So, for the first time in a long time, I’d say we’re genuinely enthused about the possibility to transform the game of search for the better.”