It’s Bing time as Microsoft reinvents the search engine
The battle for search engine supremacy gets going as Microsoft officially announces the availability of its AI-powered Bing search engine and Edge browser. Available in preview mode at Bing.com, the search engine is expected to deliver better search with more complete answers comprising a new chat experience and the ability to generate content.
The new search engine will be Microsoft’s not-so-secret weapon against Google. While Bing has been around for some time, Microsoft has always found itself trailing Google when it comes to searches. One of the main reasons for this is user preference. Google’s search engine holds 84% of the global market share, bringing in tens of billions of dollars in ad sales every quarter and making up more than two thirds of the tech giant’s total revenue. Bing’s market share stood at only 9% last year.
Although Microsoft dominated internet browsers before Google and Mozilla introduced theirs, its Bing search engine never really took off when it was launched in 2009. With Chrome and Firefox dominating browser usage, Microsoft eventually replaced Internet Explorer with the Chromium-based Edge browser but was still shy of meeting the mark.
According to Satya Nadella, Chairman and CEO of Microsoft, the launch of Bing and Edge powered by AI copilot and chat will help people get more from search and the web. With 10 billion search queries a day, Microsoft estimates that almost half go unanswered. It’s hoping the new Bing search engine can help solve this.
“AI will fundamentally change every software category, starting with the largest category of all – search,” said Nadella.
In a statement, Microsoft explained that the new Bing experience will be a culmination of four technical breakthroughs. They include:
- Next-generation OpenAI model – The new Bing is running on a 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 – Microsoft has developed a proprietary way of working with the OpenAI model that allows it to best leverage its power. Called the Prometheus model, this combination gives users more relevant, timely and targeted results, with improved safety.
- Applying AI to the core search algorithm – Microsoft has applied the AI model to its core Bing search ranking engine, which led 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 – By reimagining how users interact with search, browser and chat with a unified experience, this will unlock a completely new way to interact with the web.
“These groundbreaking new search experiences are possible because Microsoft has committed to building Azure into an AI supercomputer for the world, and OpenAI has used this infrastructure to train the breakthrough models that are now being optimized for Bing,” said Yusuf Mehdi, Corporate Vice President & Consumer Chief Marketing Officer in a blog post.
There’s no denying that since Microsoft announced its investment in OpenAI, the aim was to build a product that is capable of competing with the best. While ChatGPT and Bing may have been powered by the same generative AI technology, they’re still unique in their own ways.
It will also be interesting to see how Microsoft will ensure AI is used responsibly for searches. There have been increased concerns about AI bias but Microsoft has stated that it is working with OpenAI to ensure the AI systems are responsible by design. This includes ensuring the full strength of its responsible AI ecosystem – including researchers, engineers and policy experts – to develop new approaches to mitigate risk.
“We’ve also been intentional in implementing safeguards to defend against harmful content. Our teams are working to address issues such as misinformation and disinformation, content blocking, data safety and preventing the promotion of harmful or discriminatory content in line with our AI principles,” added Mehdi.
Meanwhile, Brad Smith, Vice President and Chair at Microsoft wrote in a blog post that the future of artificial intelligence requires a multidisciplinary approach.
“The tech sector was built by engineers. However, if AI is truly going to serve humanity, the future requires that we bring together computer and data scientists with people from every walk of life and every way of thinking. More than ever, technology needs people schooled in the humanities, social sciences and with more than an average dose of common sense,” wrote Smith.
Microsoft’s announcement may be seen as a challenge to Google and the latter is already working on ways to improve its search engine with generative AI as well. In China, Baidu is also making headlines with plans to release its own version of AI-powered search in March.
Generative AI may revolutionize the search engine. However, what these organizations need to realize is how the technology will impact society in the long run. As Smith puts it, “we’re entering a new era. We need to learn together.”