Google, AI, and Search.

It’s no secret that Google is in the AI “arms race”, as it has been called, and there is some criticism that they’re in too much of a hurry.

“…The [AI] answer is displayed at the top, and on the left are links to sites from which it drew its answer. But this will look very different on the smaller screen of a mobile device. Users will need to scroll down to see those sources, never mind other sites that might be useful to their search.

That should worry both Google’s users and paying customers like advertisers and website publishers. More than 60% of Google searches in the US occur on mobile phones. That means for most people, Google’s AI answer will take up most of the phone screen. Will people keep scrolling around, looking for citations to tap? Probably not…”

Google Is in Too Much of a Hurry on AI Search, Parmy Olson, Bloomberg (via Washington Post), May 12th, 2023.

This could have a pretty devastating effect on Web 2.0 business models, which evolved around search engine results. That, in turn, could be bad for Google’s business model as it stands, which seems to indicate that their business model will be evolving soon too.

Will they go to a subscription model for users? It would be something that makes sense – if they didn’t have competition. They do. The other shoe on this has to drop. One thing we can expect from Google is that they have thought this through, and as an 800 lb gorilla that admonishes those that don’t follow standards, it will be interesting to see how the industry reacts.

It may change, and people are already advocating that somewhat.

“…Google Search’s biggest strength, in my opinion, was its perfect simplicity. Punch in some words, and the machine gives you everything the internet has to offer on the subject, with every link neatly cataloged and sorted in order of relevance. Sure, most of us will only ever click the first link it presents – god forbid we venture to the dark recesses of the second page of results – but that was enough. It didn’t need to change; it didn’t need this.

There’s an argument to be made that search AI isn’t for simple inquiries. It’s not useful for telling you the time in Tokyo right now, Google can do that fine already. It’s for the niche interrogations: stuff like ‘best restaurant in Shibuya, Tokyo for a vegan and a lactose intolerant person who doesn’t like tofu’. While existing deep-learning models might struggle a bit, we’re not that far off AIs being able to provide concise and accurate answers to queries like that…”

Cramming AI into search results proves Google has forgotten what made it good, Christian Guyton, TechRadar, 5/11/2023

Guyton’s article (linked above in the citation) is well worth the read in it’s entirety. It has pictures and everything.

The bottom line on all of this is that we don’t know what the AI’s are trained on, we don’t know how it’s going to affect business models for online publishers, and we don’t know if it’s actually going to improve the user experience.


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