Is ChatGPT Taking on Google?

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As much as other search engines try, Google simply dominates search. Search is the company’s bread and butter (and it spends billions to keep it that way). But the future of search is all but certain, and other companies want in—including some big names in AI.

As the rumors have it, OpenAI may be about to roll out a search engine of its own. One Redditor discovered SSL certificates (needed for a site to use HTTPS) made for the site “search.chatgpt.com.” Indeed, when you visit the URL, the site returns a message that says “Not found,” rather than a message about the domain being available. Android Authority spotted a tweet from the host of an AI podcast that also mysteriously referenced the URL and the date May 9.

Truth be told, that’s all we really know about the situation at this time. In fact, it’s possible OpenAI isn’t planning anything to do with search: Maybe they just registered the domain to have it, or they’re planning on using the URL for a different purpose. But search.chatgpt.com does sound like an address a company would want you to go to to search the internet, so let’s think about what that might mean for the industry.

Taking on Google

Again, you have your choice when it comes to search engines: Bing, DuckDuckGo, even Ecosia if you’re interested in your searches planting trees. But when you think about who dominates the market, it’s undeniably Google.

So, OpenAI would really be going up against the king of search if it wanted to get in on the business. It’d be mighty difficult, but perhaps not impossible. While Google does have an almost-monopoly on the search market, the quality of its results haven’t been excellent as of late. Low-quality posts, advertisements, and other irrelevant content have been building up over sites that actually answer the question you’re looking for. Sure, Google needs to make its money, but if all you get for your search is ads and spam, what’s the benefit of their service?

For its part, Google is rolling out changes to its algorithm and spam policies to cut down on these types of results. But there’s an opening for another company to swoop in and offer a better experience. ChatGPT might be one of the biggest names in popular tech culture right now, so if OpenAI can combine that popularity with good search, they might have a shot.

But what would that experience look like? Well, I imagine not too far off from Google’s current AI search. When you search for something on Google today with Gemini enabled, you still get the usual search results we’ve all known and loved for the past 25 years. However, at the top of the results, you’ll see an “AI answer,” which takes the “best” sources from your results and distills them into an AI-generated summary.

Sometimes, this is quite useful: Without needing to sift through multiple websites, you get an answer to your question, complete with highlights of key ideas, images, bullet points, and sources you can check out to fact check the AI. You should, too, because AI constantly makes stuff up. But that applies to every facet of AI, not just search, so if you’re going to start using an AI-generated search experience, that just comes with the package.

How could “ChatGPT Search” improve things?

OpenAI would need to do two things here to make their experience better: They’d need to return more accurate, relevant results in search, as well as offer an improved AI summarizer. They might not take on Google overnight, but with that combination, it might be enough to get some tech people interested in switching.

The company sure has the AI tech to offer a decent AI search summarizer, but I obviously can’t speak to their search abilities. What I can say is there’s not the same financial incentives for OpenAI as there are with Google, at least not yet. OpenAI doesn’t need to prioritize SEO spam and advertisements because that’s not where their money is coming from: They have paid subscribers and huge investors seeding them capital. From where I’m sitting, they could focus on offering a search experience that delivers the most relevant results possible, rather than what the search engine thinks will make it the most money. That could help an AI summary as well: If the AI pulls from sources without considering how it may affect the company’s bottom line, it may tend to pick higher-quality references. There’s your better product.

Of course, this is all speculation, based on the URL that OpenAI has not commented on publicly. May 9 may come and go, and we may never heard about ChatGPT Search again. But if the company is planning on going against Google here, it’s going to be interesting.

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