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Online search to make up lost time with artificial intelligence

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – Online search, dominated by Google for 25 years, has become as banal as making a phone call, but it could finally be getting a profound reset thanks to artificial intelligence (AI).

The classic search and click made ubiquitous by the Google behemoth is getting a major AI makeover as bots ChatGPT, Bard or Bing see hundreds of millions of web surfers seek answers to life’s questions in a new way.

“People are realising how many times they use Google search, not to find a webpage, but to answer a question,” said Chief Product Officer at Germany-based Software AG Stefan Sigg.

Microsoft, long considered big tech’s boring uncle, has jumped fearlessly and some say blindly into generative AI search with an update to Bing, the long struggling also-ran to Google.

Bing’s bot, which was released worldwide after three months of testing, responds directly to a query instead of throwing out a pageful of links for the search user to wade and click through.

With a prompt, Bing will compare two products, brainstorm vacation plans or reassuringly help prepare a job interview, for example.

“Now, search does the heavy lifting for you,” said Vice President Engineering at Google Cathy Edwards during the company’s annual I/O developers conference in California.

The user no longer has to “sift through the information and then piece things together,” she said.

At the conference, matching Bing, Google presented the latest iteration of its web search juggernaut, but instead of the constellation of links that confronts you today, a chatbot offered a few paragraphs to answer what you were looking for.

Google’s AI amped search engine will slowly be released in the United States as a start, the company said.