Speed Reads

Search Wars

How does Microsoft's ChatGPT-fueled Bing work, and can it actually challenge Google?

Microsoft on Tuesday gave a smattering of tech reporters a first look at its new Bing search engine fused with artificially intelligent chatbot technology from ChatGPT creator OpenAI. Thanks to this partnership between OpenAI and Microsoft, one of its biggest investors, "searching the web is about to turn into chatting with the web," Geoffrey Fowler explains at The Washington Post. "Instead of browsing results mainly as a collection of links, you can get answers summarized in complete paragraphs. Or emoji."

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who was formerly in charge of Bing, said the new version is a shot across the bow at Google, which controls more than 90 percent the lucrative search market to Bing's 4 percent. "The race starts today," he said. Microsoft is also integrating OpenAI's technology into its Edge web browser.

When you open the new Bing — Microsoft has a waiting list you can join — you're greeted with a "Ask Me Anything" text box. Bing will return more traditional search results to your question, which you are invited to ask in conversational language, but also opens up a chat box on the right that attempts to answer your query and lets you ask follow-ups to refine the results — or turn them into something more creative, like a poem, Fowler explains. That chat function taps into a more powerful version of OpenAI's chatbot technology, Microsoft says.

"Microsoft's search engine might not be a punchline much longer," because the new AI-powered Bing is "smart — really smart," Joanna Stern writes in The Wall Street Journal. She runs through how the ChatGPT-infused Bing and Edge work and interviews Nardella, including with a list of questions she asked Bing to write "in the voice or Joanna Stern" — and compares his answers to eerily accurate ones Bing wrote in the voice of Nardella. 

The new Bing isn't flawless — the Post's Fowler explains how it created a new conspiracy theory about Tom Hanks and Watergate in his test run, and also notes that the sources it draws on for its answers aren't always the most authoritative. 

Google, which unveiled its own in-progress AI chatbot, Bard, on Monday, was caught off-guard by the popularity of ChatGPT, Gartner analyst Jason Wong told The Associated Press. But Microsoft is taking big "reputational risks" by jumping in to AI chat search first.

Nardella said Microsoft will integrate OpenAI's technology into its entire software line — replacing Clippy in Office, essentially — and hopes to eat into Google's search dominance, not topple it. "It's far too early to call a winner in this AI search race," Stern writes. "But after seeing the new Bing in action, I can confidently say this: A big change is coming to how we get information and how we interact with our computers."