In a bold attempt to redefine search engine dynamics, Microsoft integrated ChatGPT, OpenAI’s generative AI technology, into Bing. This move, hailed as a potential game-changer in the search market, aimed to challenge Google’s supremacy. However, nearly a year after this integration, Bing’s market share has shown only a marginal increase, underscoring the challenges of altering established user habits and preferences in the digital search arena.
Marginal market growth despite AI integration
Data from StatCounter indicates that by the end of 2023, Bing held merely 3.4% of the global search market, a slight rise from its position prior to the ChatGPT addition. This growth, while noteworthy, falls short of the transformative impact predicted by some analysts. Bing, which has undergone multiple rebrandings since its 2009 debut, has struggled to capture a significant market share despite its various enhancements.
The addition of ChatGPT did reverse some negative trends for Bing. U.S. monthly active users more than doubled in the second quarter of 2023, reaching 3.1 million, and time spent on the search engine increased by 84%, as per SensorTower data. By year-end, monthly active users climbed to 4.4 million. These figures, while showing progress, highlight the immense challenge of significantly denting Google’s dominant market position.
AI and search: Microsoft’s continued pursuit
In October 2023, Microsoft took another step in AI integration by incorporating DALL-E 3, OpenAI’s image-generating model, into Bing. This feature, while not directly enhancing search capabilities, resulted in a tenfold spike in usage, according to Jordi Ribas, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of search and AI. This suggests that while AI integrations are intriguing to users, they may not fundamentally change search engine preferences.
On the other side, Google has not remained passive. In May, it launched an experimental version of its search engine, dubbed SGE, offering conversational responses along with traditional search results. Google plans to integrate its powerful large language model, Gemini, into SGE in 2024, indicating its commitment to staying at the forefront of AI in search.
The road ahead in AI-enhanced search
The efforts of both Microsoft and Google in integrating AI into their search engines reflect a belief in the transformative potential of this technology. However, the journey towards revolutionizing the search market is complex. Harvard Business School Professor Shane Greenstein noted the necessity of a “flywheel” in search: the more searches a platform has, the better its responses become. This dynamic is currently a stronghold of Google, making it a formidable competitor in the AI-enhanced search landscape.
While Bing’s integration of ChatGPT and other AI technologies marks a significant stride in search engine innovation, it remains clear that these advancements alone may not be sufficient to significantly challenge Google’s market dominance. The future of search is increasingly AI-driven, but capturing a significant share of this evolving market requires more than just technological advancements; it demands a fundamental shift in user behavior and preferences.