Exploring the Rise of Chatbots and its Impact on Google’s Dominance
It’s been more than 25 years since search engines became the front door to the internet. Back then, AltaVista was the first site to allow full-text web searches, but it was quickly overshadowed by Google, which has dominated the field ever since. Today, Google’s search engine is still at the heart of its business and has made Alphabet, Google’s parent company, one of the world’s most valuable companies, with a market capitalisation of $1.3 trillion and revenues of $283 billion in 2022. In fact, Google has become so popular that its name has even become a verb!
But with the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots, the internet search landscape is changing. Leading the pack is ChatGPT, made by OpenAI, a startup. By the end of January, just two months after its launch, ChatGPT was being used by over 100 million people, making it the “fastest-growing consumer application in history,” according to UBS. ChatGPT allows people to chat directly with an AI and can answer trivia questions, explain complex concepts, and synthesise knowledge from the web. It even has the ability to write essays in various styles and pass legal and medical exams. Many of the things people use search engines for today can be done better with chatbots.
The competition is heating up with rival tech firms jumping on the chatbot bandwagon. Microsoft, which has invested over $11 billion in OpenAI, has incorporated ChatGPT into a new version of Bing, its search engine.
It’s still unclear if chatbots are competing against search engines. The jury is still out on this, as it is likely to be driven by user behaviour.
Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, sees this as his chance to challenge Google. Google has responded with its own chatbot called Bard, which it sees as a “companion” to its search engine. Google has also taken a $300 million stake in Anthropic, a startup founded by former OpenAI employees, which has built a chatbot called Claude. Baidu, the Google of China, has also jumped on the chatbot trend and plans to release its chatbot, called Ernie, in March.
But what do these chatbots mean for the search and advertising industry? Three factors will play a big role in determining the future of chatbots in search: moral choices, monetisation, and monopoly economics. ChatGPT may be fast and efficient, but it often gets things wrong and has been criticised for presenting inaccurate information as gospel truth. There are also concerns about bias, prejudice, and misinformation, as chatbots scan the internet for answers. There will likely be controversies as chatbots produce incorrect or offensive replies.
Tech firms will also face challenges in terms of monetisation. Running a chatbot requires more processing power than serving up search results, which means higher costs and lower margins. Advertisers may be willing to pay more to influence the answers provided by chatbots, but will users trust chatbots if their objectivity has been compromised by advertisers? There’s also the question of competition – is it a good thing that Google is facing competition from chatbots or is it a threat to the monopoly it has held for so long?
The rise of AI chatbots is shaking up the internet search landscape and poses both challenges and opportunities for tech firms. Only time will tell how the battle for internet search will play out, but one thing’s for sure – it’s an exciting time to be in the SEO industry!