First, there was ChatGPT. Then, yesterday, Google announced its own language model, Bard. Later that day, just as Twitter had started to calm down a bit, Bing announced its integration of AI, and SEOs around the world prepared for another round of research and lively debate.
With ChatGPT currently holding the top spot in the ongoing battle of the AIs, and Bard backed by huge levels of data from Google’s 90% of total search traffic and history of integrating AI into its systems, what is Bing bringing to the fight?
Let’s find out…
Roboteers: Stand by…
The official announcement from Bing tells us:
“Today, we’re launching an all-new, AI-powered Bing search engine and Edge browser, available in preview now at Bing.com, to deliver better search, more complete answers, a new chat experience and the ability to generate content. We think of these tools as an AI copilot for the web.”
This is pretty much exactly in line with the offering promised by Bard, which is no huge surprise. Bing goes on to say:
“There are 10 billion search queries a day, but we estimate half of them go unanswered. That’s because people are using search to do things it wasn’t originally designed to do. It’s great for finding a website, but for more complex questions or tasks too often it falls short.”
So, in essence, we’re looking at something very similar to what Google is trying to achieve with Bard: Better search results, regardless of the complexity of your query. So far, so good. However, with only 3.03% market share (compared to Google’s 92.9%), can Bing REALLY make a difference to search? Let’s explore what’s going on “under the bonnet”…
Three, two, one, activate!
The new Bing model is based on the following technological breakthroughs (information taken from the official announcement):
- Next-generation OpenAI model. “A new, next-generation OpenAI large language model that is more powerful than ChatGPT and customized specifically for search. It takes key learnings and advancements from ChatGPT and GPT-3.5 – and it is even faster, more accurate and more capable.”
- Microsoft Prometheus model. “A proprietary way of working with the OpenAI model that best leverages its power. This combination gives you more relevant, timely and targeted results, with improved safety.”
- Applying AI to the core search algorithm. “The AI model has been applied to the core Bing search ranking engine, leading to the largest jump in relevance in two decades. With this AI model, even basic search queries are more accurate and more relevant.”
- New user experience. “Reimagining how users interact with search, browser and chat by pulling them into a unified experience.”
At this point, anyone who has read anything about AI language models recently should be thinking “Wait… Bing is owned by Microsoft, right? Isn’t ChatGPT backed by Microsoft? Why would Bing launch its own AI language model?”
That question is answered in the first point above. This is ChatGPT, albeit a refined version, unleashed from its training data and given live search data to play with instead, and made faster by being hosted on Bing servers.
Style, control, damage and aggression
What does this all mean for search though? Let’s look at some of the key features Bing is describing:
- Better search. The new Bing gives you an improved version of the familiar search experience, providing more relevant results for simple things like sports scores, stock prices and weather, along with a new sidebar that shows more comprehensive answers if you want them.
- Complete answers. Bing reviews results from across the web to find and summarise the answer you’re looking for. For example, you can get detailed instructions for how to substitute eggs for another ingredient in a cake you are baking right at that moment, without scrolling through multiple results.
- New Microsoft Edge experience. We’ve updated the Edge browser with new AI capabilities and a new look, and we’ve added two new functionalities: Chat and compose. With the Edge Sidebar, you can ask for a summary of a lengthy financial report to get the key takeaways – and then use the chat function to ask for a comparison to a competing company’s financials and automatically put it in a table.
The end goal is clear, and it’s something that Google has been describing for a while now too: Search results that best meet your exact needs, pulled from multiple data sources if needed. At the moment, you might search for “What kind of hat should I wear to climb Ben Nevis?” and you would be served the information that best meets that query.
This new model of AI has the potential to be able to understand hundreds of pieces of context behind that question. For instance, the answer to the query should be different depending on the season: Suggesting a woolly hat for a summer climb wouldn’t be useful at all. But it goes even further than that…
If AI is fully implemented, future search engines could also be able to use your previous search history and data to supply even more detailed answers. So, in relation to the climbing Ben Nevis example, search engines could perhaps recommend routes (depending on your assumed ability), other equipment needed, estimated ascent times (possibly based on your individual fitness level) and so many more things, all without ever leaving the results page. That way, you won’t have to go through multiple websites to find the information you need – search engines will show you exactly what you need, when you need it, based on your individual data.
One thing is for certain: Search is changing and in a good way. Google has been telling the SEO community to think about users first, rather than keywords and ranking factors for years now, and this sounds like the next logical step in that journey. Search that delivers results that match your exact query, rather than just the best match for similar queries. What’s not to like?
It’s entirely possible that another AI language model will launch by the time this blog post goes live, but sleep soundly knowing that, if it does, our SEO and Content specialists will be among the first to know, so watch this space!