Google and Microsoft have embarked on a race for artificial intelligence to reinvent the way we search the web. This could have a big impact on the content published on the web.
The Web is currently experiencing one of its main turning points. After the arrival of the participatory Web (or Web 2.0) and Web 3 supposedly decentralizing the Internet, it is today artificial intelligence that is invited to forced marches in our digital daily life. Unlike NFTs or the chain of blocks, these are specific and visible uses for ordinary mortals, intended to simplify the uses.
These features are essential for mass adoption of a new standard; if only insiders understand the interest of a novelty, it will be difficult for the greatest number possible to adopt it. By greatly simplifying our way of searching the Web, artificial intelligence speaks to everyone and therefore has all the weapons at hand to impose itself.
Microsoft and Google seek the web revolution
For 20 years, the search engine has not evolved. With its robots that roam the web and its algorithms, Google buried its competition at the time (Yahoo, Lycos, Altavista, etc.). Today, the other search engines share a small market share and try to stand out mainly through their ethics. We think, for example, of Ecosia, which is committed to ecology, or Brave, which promises greater respect for privacy.
However, the year 2023 is full of surprises and now both Microsoft and Google are looking to reinvent search. The first with its new Bing, integrating ChatGPT, and the second with Bard, a conversational robot designed to improve the Google search engine.
Behind these two technologies, the same idea: to use artificial intelligence to offer a response directly to the user, instead of links to sites that contain information, such as ChatGPT.
Google Bard // Source: Google
Microsoft Bing // Source: Microsoft
As we have seen, AI is far from foolproof at this point and it will be some time before the responses from these two tools are reliable enough to be taken seriously. It seems obvious, however, that in the long term this model will prevail for the most common uses.
A business model change
Such a radical change will require reviewing the economic model of certain activities. In the Bard screenshot presented by Google, it’s clear that the page is clear and free of third-party ads and results. A point that Microsoft has also raised in its own conference by recalling that its economic model is not based on this today.
In the fourth quarter of 2022, Google Search accounts for $42.6 billion in revenue of the company’s $76 billion. Therefore, the visible response above is likely to be found below, or punctuated by, the ad insertions, if Google doesn’t want to radically split its revenue.
The other possible possibility is the integration of sponsored content in the responses of these algorithms. However, such a manipulation would totally lose the credibility of these chatbots.
Also remember that the power required by this type of tool is much more expensive than simple link directories. If Microsoft and Google can afford to maintain a loss-making service (YouTube took years to be profitable), surely a return on investment will be sought.
expensive intellectual property
Beyond that, what raises questions is the question of intellectual property. The information these conversational tools regurgitate does not come from Google or Microsoft, but from third-party sites. The media, encyclopedias, blogs… In this way, various sources are reviewed to obtain an orderly summary.
Google and Facebook already use information from certain sites on their pages. Users no longer need to visit the site in question. One less click means one less ad view, and therefore less revenue for the source.
The issue of copyright and intellectual property has been raised in this way on several occasions, this is what is called neighboring rights. On small items, this is only a few clicks, as the complete information is always on the source site, but with the advent of these bots, this effect is likely to be felt even more.
The Frankroid example
To illustrate the problem, we are going to take a very specific case that we can perfectly talk about: that of frandroid. During the presentation of its new Bing, Microsoft gave the example of a person looking for a gaming TV. Bing then makes it possible to get an answer without going to a site. From the user’s point of view, it’s a revolution. From the perspective of Forbes or of tom’s guide, serving as primary sources, this is one less income. Cooking recipe sites are obviously in the same situation.
However, this content was created by the sites in question and represents a production cost. for example in frandroid, we have several full-time people dedicated to product recommendations. And other formats are obviously involved, like our tutorials that can be used by these algorithms whether we like it or not.
Tests, buying guides, tutorials… they are called ” cold content“, decorate the news called “hotand much of the traffic comes from… Google. In the case offrandroidthe majority of our audience comes directly from Google and implementation of these tools could well drop our traffic, and therefore our revenue, without compensation from these Silicon Valley giants.
For our part, we look to the future with these tools and want to offer more and more quality content to our readers, so we are already beginning to reinvent our place on the Internet to adapt. How many, instead, will be surprised?
a difficult transformation
Let’s take out our crystal ball to see what’s next. Google and Bing roll out their solutions on a massive scale, drastically reducing search engine traffic for many sites whose survival depends on displaying ads. Then they will be forced to react urgently to find this lost audience.
In addition to search engines, there are other sources of traffic, including social networks or news aggregators like Google Discover, Google News or Apple News. On these platforms, algorithms are often (but not always) king and define who will or will not be promoted.
To be promoted, like on TikTok, a large number of people must have seen the article, stopped at it, and interacted with it, by clicking on it, for example. This therefore runs the risk of prompting inelegant practices to gain visibility (the third one will surprise you).
As happened with other great developments in the sector, we will surely see the emergence of new economic models (or old ones, such as subscription), types of content more appropriate to this new paradigm, and a transformation of the Web like the one we know. him. This change certainly won’t be smooth and less agile players risk disappearing or at least having to downsize.
Of course, the Web will always need journalists and content creators, AI will not replace these professions, but it will certainly reinvent them.
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