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OpenAI readies AI search engine to smash Google on home turf

WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

The next frontier of search is AI driven, and Google is starting to sweat …

 

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Already top of mind in the red-hot Artificial Intelligence (AI) space, OpenAI could be working on an AI-powered search engine to challenge tech titan Google, which is already feeling the heat from the initiative, as well as the web-savvy AI tool Perplexity.

 

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The tantalizing face-off over the future of finding information online is emerging from rumours and purported insider leaks. The first hints surfaced in February, when The Information reported that OpenAI was developing a search app aimed at Google’s core competency.

If true, it would be a marked departure from the company’s current arrangement with Microsoft to use Bing to give ChatGPT access to the web. Bing uses Retrieval-Augmented Generation (RAG) to improve answers by folding data from web searches into GPT-4 chatbot responses – giving it an edge in terms of currency of information.

More recently, a well-known leaker in the AI space who goes by the pseudonym Jimmy Apples asserted that OpenAI could announce a new search engine soon. Citing a flurry of new domain name records emanating from chatgpt.com, he posited that the Mountain View based firm is preparing to host an event to showcase this new capability.

 

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“10am, 9th of May for an OpenAI event apparently, might not be model release but search engine announcement,” he tweeted. “Guess they can’t help themselves to upstage Google I/O” – the annual developers conference scheduled to kick off on Tuesday.

Ashutosh Shrivastava another Twitter user who is active in the AI community -delved further, claiming that OpenAI had been very active with a new subdomain named search.chatgpt.com.

“OpenAI’s recent SSL certificate logs revealed something interesting: the domain (search-dot-chatgpt-dot-com) may indicate that OpenAI is developing a search functionality,” he said.

A standard WHOIS domain registry search confirms that the subdomain exists, but attempts to access it fail. Jimmy Apples also said OpenAI may be testing more features or AI models.

 

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“I count at least 50+ new async subdomains since the 24th of April,” he tweeted, speculating that a new ChatGPT search engine might offer faster responses than its main chatbot and feature strong summarization capabilities.

Until the explosive debut of consumer-ready AI tools like ChatGPT, Google was the king of search, providing the main way people found information online. But its central position is being challenged as users become more comfortable asking a chatbot for answers than conducting a Google search.

For some, the shift can’t come soon enough, as Google search results are increasingly crowded with paid placement and sites that exist only to draw search traffic.

On the other hand, the currency and completeness of information provided by AI models is often a weakness of chatbots – as well as devices intended to make the smartphone obsolete. Two high-profile AI gadget releases in the past month – the Humane AI pin and the Rabbit R1 – have laid bare the limitations of this much-hyped approach to ubiquitous computing.

 

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Some companies are already combining AI and search. Perplexity is an AI-powered search engine that has built up a reputation in the AI space and drawn major investments from Nvidia and Jeff Bezos. Recently, Microsoft which is OpenAI’s leading investor banned employees from using Perplexity for security reasons. And while its reach is miniscule compared to tools from OpenAI, Google, and Microsoft, Perplexity is seeing historic levels of interest right now, according to Google Trends.

If OpenAI develops a native GPT-powered search engine, it would go head to head with Google Search, which has essentially owned this critical facet of the internet since it’s launch in 1998. It will also immediately dwarf Perplexity’s leadership in the more niche area of AI-powered search engines.

Marketing platform Semrush estimates that there are 5.9 million Google searches conducted each minute, adding up to 8.5 billion searches per day or 3.1 trillion searches per year. Only 17 months old, ChatGPT currently has about 1.6 billion visits per month, while Perplexity is used by 10 million people every month.

 

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In a recent podcast with Lex Fridman, OpenAI chief, Sam Altman hinted at OpenAI’s interest in reinventing web search.

“The intersection of LLMs plus search, I don’t think anyone has cracked the code on yet,” he said. “I would love to go do that. I think that would be cool.”

As of now, there has been no official announcement from OpenAI regarding the development of a search engine, and OpenAI did not immediately respond to a request for comments. But based on its founders enthusiasm for the space, a new AI search engine seems more likely than not.

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