How Will AI Affect Search? Bing Gives Us a Sneak Peek at the Future of Search

Microsoft’s Bing may have just redefined the search engine. While it’s no secret that Bing is a distant second to Google when it comes to search engine dominance—accounting for just under 9% of the market share—that distribution may be shifting soon. As the New York Times reported, Microsoft has redeveloped Bing using artificial intelligence to create a more dynamic hybrid search system that has the potential to change the way we use an essential part of the internet. 


Currently in beta, the new Bing incorporates a chat feature that, by most accounts, works phenomenally well—though not without generating some justifiable trepidation. The new system is, in some ways, more free-form and, in other ways, more exacting and precise. 


What you type as a search can be a sentence-long question or request, and the results you receive will be split into two defined sections. One section displays links and ads like we’re used to from search engines, while the other is a written reply answering your query and directing you to pages for more information. 


Here’s one of the examples the Times gives:

“Type in a prompt—say, “Write me a menu for a vegetarian dinner party”—and the left side of your screen fills up with the standard ads and links to recipe websites. On the right side, Bing’s A.I. engine starts typing out a response in full sentences, often annotated with links to the websites it’s retrieving information from.”


And the process doesn’t end there. You can ask follow-up questions, get more specific or more broad, or ask for help portioning or shopping for ingredients. Reportedly the new Bing excelled at generating gift ideas, summarizing films, and building travel itineraries. 


Anyone who has used an AI chat function has likely been frustrated by its limitations and cookie-cutter replies—but you don’t get that here. The replies are more accurate, specific, and, when it comes down to it, helpful due to Microsoft’s Prometheus tool. Prometheus incorporates chat with the Bing search engine and then runs that through another Microsoft language model. It’s a complex system, a symphonic interaction between programs that must’ve taken an immense amount of trial and error to dial in. It still isn’t a perfect system, but it’s a massive leap forward. 


The new Bing functions more like a personal concierge than a generic search engine. And the level of specificity it supports could potentially spur a sea change in online marketing by vaulting over many of the barriers between consumer and product—eliminating some static, if you will. The new Bing will be rolled out to the public soon, and we’ll all be watching to see its impact. 


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