Shares of Google-parent Alphabet fell more than 3% in early trading Monday after a report sparked concerns that its core search engine could lose market share to AI-powered rivals, including Microsoft’s Bing.
Last month, Google employees learned that Samsung was weighing making Bing the default search engine on its devices instead of Google’s search engine, prompting a “panic” inside the company, according to a report from the New York Times, citing internal messages and documents. (News84Media has not reviewed the material.)
In an effort to address the heightened competition, Google is said to be developing a new AI-powered search engine called Project “Magi,” according to the Times. The company, which reportedly has about 160 people working on the project, aims to change the way results appear in Google Search and will include an AI chat tool available to answer questions. The project is expected to be unveiled to the public next month, according to the report.
In a statement sent to News84Media, Google spokesperson Lara Levin said the company has been using AI for years to “improve the quality of our results” and “offer entirely new ways to search,” including with a feature rolled out last year that lets users search by combining images and words.
“We’ve done so in a responsible and helpful way that maintains the high bar we set for delivering quality information,” Levin said. “Not every brainstorm deck or product idea leads to a launch, but as we’ve said before, we’re excited about bringing new AI-powered features to Search, and will share more details soon.”
Samsung did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Google’s search engine has dominated the market for two decades. But the viral success of ChatGPT, which can generate compelling written responses to user prompts, appeared to put Google on defense for the first time in years.
In March, Google began opening up access to Bard, its new AI chatbot tool that directly competes with ChatGPT and promises to help users outline and write essay drafts, plan a friend’s baby shower, and get lunch ideas based on what’s in the fridge.
At an event in February, a Google executive also said the company will bring “the magic of generative AI” directly into its core search product and use artificial intelligence to pave the way for the “next frontier of our information products.”
Microsoft, meanwhile, has invested in and partnered with OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, to deploy similar technology in Bing and other productivity tools. Other tech companies, including Meta, Baidu and IBM, as well as a slew of startups, are racing to develop and deploy AI-powered tools.
But tech companies face risks in embracing this technology, which is known to make mistakes and “hallucinate” responses. That’s particularly true when it comes to search engines, a product that many use to find accurate and reliable information.
Google was called out after a demo of Bard provided an inaccurate response to a question about a telescope. Shares of Google’s parent company Alphabet fell 7.7% that day, wiping $100 billion off its market value.
Microsoft’s Bing AI demo was also called out for several errors, including an apparent failure to differentiate between the types of vacuums and even made up information about certain products.
In an interview with 60 Minutes that aired on Sunday, Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai stressed the need for companies to “be responsible in each step along the way” as they build and release AI tools.
For Google, he said, that means allowing time for “user feedback” and making sure the company “can develop more robust safety layers before we build, before we deploy more capable models.”
He also expressed his belief that these AI tools will ultimately have broad impacts on businesses, professions and society.
“This is going to impact every product across every company and so that’s, that’s why I think it’s a very, very profound technology,” he said. “And so, we are just in early days.”