Google’s search business doesn’t have to be killed by AI chatbots – here’s the ugly workaround | Tech News

Google’s search business doesn’t have to be killed by AI chatbots – here’s the ugly workaround

Google’s search business doesn’t have to be killed by AI chatbots – here’s the ugly workaround

| Updated on: Feb 15 2023, 07:06 IST
Google Search Tips and Tricks: Here are 10 best ways to make ‘Googling’ efficient
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1/11 Imagine your life without Google Search in 2022? Seems difficult, right? And if you can recall the story of an applicant from last year, who mentioned ‘Googling’ as his skill in his resume, then you must be convinced that no matter what, Google Search has become an important aspect of daily life for most people. From students for study purposes to employees to bring the latest information in relation to their work, Google Search has been a very handy tool to have. However, despite the fact that Google plays an important role in our day-to-day life, most people are unable to use it to its full potential. So, to bring the best results out of your Google Search, here, we have listed the top 10 tips and tricks to use. (Reuters)
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2/11 Use hyphen -- You can use (-) to exclude content from a major topic that you don't want to search. It will tell the search engine to ignore that part. For example, the latest smartphone launches -iPhone, which will omit the iPhone specifically. (Pixabay)
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3/11 Colon for a specific site -- Sometimes you look for content from a specific website from Google. To do so, you will simply need to add (:) between your searching term and specific website. Such as iPhone (Flickr)
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4/11 Quotes for specific search -- When you need to search for something very specific, don't just use the words. Put those words or phrases within the quotes. This will let Google know to search for the whole phrase. (Pixabay)
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5/11 Asterisk for missing – It sometimes happens that you forget a few words from a phrase that you want to search. But Google has a trick for that too. Just use an asterisk (*) at those places of the phrase where some words are missing and Google will know that here some words need to be filled. (WikiMedia)
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6/11 Track your orders – Just enter the tracking number of your order in the Google search and it will give you the tracking information about your package. This can be a shortcut, instead of going to a specific site or app and then waiting for it to load for your orders and then tracking information. (Pixabay)
7/11 Find other websites like your favourite one -- This is simply like a search related to a specific website. For example, will give you results of websites that are similar to Amazon, such as Flipkart, Snapdeal, and more. (Pixabay)
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8/11 Your Google search is a calculator too! Can't find a calculator? Don't worry, your Google is multi-tasking. Google search can match for you. Simply put the math problem in the search bar and it will gill you exact or descriptive solutions. (Flickr)
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9/11 Search multiple words at once – Use the 'OR' modifier to get more accurate results if you're seeking results that are only on one topic or another. For example, 'smartphones or tablets' will give you results for both at once. (Pixabay)
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10/11 Search by customizing publishing date – You can find the information from a specific time period. Such as searching Moto smartphone launches in Google search and then going to ‘tools’ to set the time period from where you will get the results from your customized publishing date. It will give you published articles or content from that particular period only. (Pixabay)
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11/11 Find a specific file -- If you don't know, Google search has the ability to search for a specific file or file type. If you need a specific PDF or PowerPoint file that you previously looked at or need to use for another project, this can be really handy. All you need to do is to search like this, *Search term here* filetype:pdf. (Pixabay)
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Many are asking if we are witnessing Google’s Kodak moment, in reference to the American camera giant’s famous demise at the hands of digital photography. (Pixabay)

Google's parent company Alphabet has lost a hefty US$100 billion (£83 billion) or nearly a tenth of its market value after its new AI chatbot, Bard, botched an answer to a query on an ad promoting its launch.

It claimed that the James Webb space telescope took the first pictures of planets outside the Earth's solar system when in fact it was the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope.

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At the same time, Microsoft saw its shares rise 3% on announcing that it would be integrating ChatGPT into Bing, Office and Teams. Microsoft is a significant shareholder in OpenAI, maker of this much-heralded AI chatbot.

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Many are asking if we are witnessing Google's Kodak moment, in reference to the American camera giant's famous demise at the hands of digital photography. That could be overstating it, but we certainly think there is some merit to investors' concerns for Google's future as a search engine company.

How disruption happens

Bard making a mistake is not a problem in itself. ChatGPT is known to give wrong answers to queries with unsettling confidence. The big market reaction against Alphabet was more because the launch debacle broke the proverbial camel's back. If Google can't even run a convincing launch ad about its new technology, went the thinking, can it really defend its search business?

In our experience, firms don't usually get disrupted because they lack the technology or the resources. More commonly it's either because they lack imagination or struggle to re-invent themselves – often out of fear that developing a new business will harm an existing one (known as cannibalisation).

Lack of imagination is mostly the problem with longstanding incumbents. Kodak, for example, couldn't imagine a world without photographic film and hard prints and paid a heavy price. Equally, hotel groups were completely caught on the hop by Airbnb. They had little response except to lobby government authorities en masse against the service.

On the other hand, Google has been at the forefront of developing the technology behind AIs like ChatGPT. Known as large language models or LLMs, they essentially work by assembling arrays of very powerful computers and “training” them on huge quantities of information from the internet and elsewhere.

Google's research scientists wrote the breakthrough paper in 2017 in this area called “Attention is all you need”. Google incorporated LLMs into the likes of Google Translate to much success, though never into its mainstream search business. It seems likely that it fears cannibalisation and the difficulty of reinventing its search business. Unfortunately, the status quo doesn't look viable either.

Google utterly dominates search, with 84% of global traffic, garnering 70% of its revenues from this and related markets. Having created a business on such a scale, it effectively has a monopoly (outside certain countries like China that do things their own way).

The problem is that AI chatbots like ChatGPT circumvent the need for a search engine by giving precise and, in most cases, correct and creative answers to complex human queries. ChatGPT has become the fastest adopted consumer app of all time, with more than 100 million users since November. And besides Bard, various other companies, including Chinese search giant Baidu, are well advanced in developing LLMs of their own. If there's a better way to find out what's on the internet, why bother Googling anything anymore?

Making money from AI chatbots

For now, the business model for AI chatbots is unclear. Search is free for end users thanks to advertisers paying on the other end for customer traffic they receive from valuable search terms. It is a predictable high-margin business.

AI chatbots on the other hand are tricky. Would ads need to be inserted in responses to convince users to click on certain advertiser websites? Would that appear to be inauthentic and cause fallout? How many ads would be too many?

There's no telling to what extent this would cannibalise Google's search business, which must make it terrifying for the management. Again, consider Kodak. It bought photo-sharing platform Ofoto in 2001 and could have developed it into a social media platform. Instead, it tried to protect its business by encouraging users to print more pictures rather than sharing them with others.

This is how successful companies' core capabilities end up becoming their core rigidities. Microsoft doesn't have this problem precisely because it has never managed to compete with Google successfully since launching Bing in 2009. It only earns about 6% of its revenues from search, so has far less to lose from disruption in the sector. It has already been giving investors a sense of how it will incorporate ChatGPT into Bing's ad model.

The incumbent problem

Google's innovation has already been atrophying in recent years. It has shut down promising businesses, such as gaming platform Stadia and automated reservations tool Duplex on the Web. Elsewhere it has been late, playing catch-up to Amazon's Echo smart speakers with Google Home.

Management missteps are partly to blame, but so are impatient requirements on making a return. The stock market has rewarded Google's laser-sharp focus on revenue growth and profitability, incentivising the management to be less patient with their investments. Kodak's market valuation was the highest in its history in 1996 before the global shift to the internet ushered in a remarkable collapse. Perhaps we will say the same about Alphabet/Google in 2021.

In our experience, companies would much rather have competitors kill their golden goose than do it themselves. This is the trap Google must avoid. The only option is to start cannibalising its search business.

Google could copy Microsoft's approach with Bing and introduce Bard results as just one of the responses to search queries. This might lower its ad sales as there is no real bidding for a bot's answer and no clicks that can take searchers to monetisable partner sites. But launch this in beta, making it only accessible to those who pre-register, and you at least contain the impact. Learn from the experience, test different monetisation models and scale only when you see what works best.

Above all, Google cannot continue to thrive or even survive by thinking like an incumbent. It needs to re-invent itself. This means leaving something on the table, not trying to carry everything it possesses into the future. The sooner it realises this, the higher the likelihood it will survive.

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First Published Date: 15 Feb, 07:05 IST