Google has long held a dominate, nigh-impenetrable hold over the online search market. According to Statista, it holds 84% market share, with its closest rival Bing holding only 8%. It's hard to imagine Microsoft as the underdog in any market, as it's still nearly twice as large as Alphabet.
With the launch of ChatGPT, the paradigm may change, and it's not just Microsoft. Scrappy startup You.com has a similar ChatGPT-enabled search interface, and unlike the new Bing, it's available to everyone right now. And it's part of an integrated suite of tools from the company.
You.com is a search engine that was launched in November 2021 with the idea that there was room for another search engine based more on AI. The company was founded by Richard Socher, who previously worked at Salesforce and became famous for his work in natural language processing (NLP) and deep learning. Socher sees You.com as the anti-Google, an open and user-centric search platform that emphasizes serving user needs instead of bombarding them with ads.
One of the ways that You.com is differentiating itself from its competitors is through its use of multimodal search. The company is taking its head start in generative AI search and building on it by integrating elements beyond text.
For example, if a user asks a question like “Which company has the most CRM market share?”, they will get the answer “Salesforce,” and if they follow up with “What is Salesforce’s stock price?”, they will get a stock chart instead of a text-based answer. Socher believes that multimodal search is a big step forward for chat-based search and can be applied to other questions depending on the context.
You.com is growing at a double-digit percentage every month, with millions of people using the site every day. Socher tells TechCrunch the company is still considering how to monetize, but it won't be like Google or Bing.
The company is exploring different paths, including private ads, subscriptions, and building third-party apps. You.com could allow third-party apps to sell a service and take a cut of the revenue when it's relevant to the user. Socher believes this is monetizing the end of the funnel, rather than the beginning, which is what ads do.
Socher understands that You.com is up against formidable competition, but he believes that the company has found a way to differentiate itself. He says that the company has built something unique and different while capturing most of the things that people currently want from their search engine.
Microsoft's New Bing
Microsoft's new A.I.-powered Bing search engine is designed to take on Google's dominance in the search market. Like You.com, the new Bing is powered by artificial intelligence software from OpenAI, the maker of the popular chatbot ChatGPT. It uses proprietary technology called Prometheus to extract search terms from users' requests, run those queries through Bing's search index, and then use those search results in combination with its own language model to formulate a response.
The new Bing is said to be a marked improvement over Google and ChatGPT in terms of search-related tasks, including creating travel itineraries, brainstorming gift ideas, and summarizing books and movie plots. Microsoft has also incorporated OpenAI's technology into Edge, its web browser, as a kind of superpowered writing assistant.
Users can now open a panel in Edge, type in a general topic, and get an A.I.-generated paragraph, blog post, email, or list of ideas written in one of five tones. They can paste that text directly into a web browser, a social media app, or an email client.
However, the new Bing is not perfect, as it can sometimes provide erratic and nonsensical answers. Moreover, there are concerns about how quickly A.I. technology is being developed and deployed and the implications of using A.I. language models to answer search queries on issues such as copyright, attribution, and bias.
The new Bing is currently available only to a small group of testers but will become more widely available soon.
Is Generative AI the Future of Search?
Although both generative AI platforms are interesting, they have flaws. And they're too slow to replace Google just yet. They did cost Google $100 billion during its launch of Bard AI.
Also, the conversational nature of them means voice assistants like Siri or Cortana are more suited to them. How these technologies ultimately disrupt online search (and the search engine optimization industry) remains to be seen.
What is clear is there's a new AI arms race, and these tools are being tested in every market. What do you think is the future of search?