Google studies charging for AI feature in the search system – 04/03/2024 – Tech

Google studies charging for AI feature in the search system – 04/03/2024 – Tech


Google is considering charging for new premium features powered by generative artificial intelligence (AI), in what would be an unprecedented shift in its internet search business.

The proposed overhaul of its search engine, the company’s main source of revenue, would mark the first time the big tech company would offer paid versions of one of its flagship products.

It also demonstrates that Google is still dealing with a technology that threatens its advertising arm, almost a year and a half after ChatGPT’s debut.

Google is weighing options like adding certain AI-powered search features to its premium subscription services, which now offer access to the Gemini assistant in Gmail and Docs, according to three people familiar with the plans.

Engineers are developing the technology needed to implement the service, but executives have not yet made a final decision on whether and when to launch it, one of the people said.

Google’s traditional search engine would remain free, while ads would continue to appear alongside results, even for subscribers.

But charging for the AI ​​feature would represent the first time that Google — which for many years has offered free services to consumers, funded entirely by advertising — has made its users pay for Search improvements.

Google reported $175 billion in revenue from search and related ads last year, more than half of its total revenue, posing a dilemma for the company about how to embrace the latest innovations in AI while preserving its biggest source of profit.

Since November 2022, when OpenAI launched ChatGPT, Google has struggled to respond to the competitive threat posed by the chatbot.

ChatGPT can provide quick and complete answers to many questions, threatening to make a traditional search engine’s list of links and the lucrative ads that appear alongside them obsolete.

Google began testing an experimental AI-powered search service in May last year, delivering more detailed answers to queries while continuing to present users with links to more information and ads.

However, it has been slow to add features of what it calls “Search Generative Experience” [experiência de pesquisa generativa] to your search engine.

These types of search results, which include AI-powered “snapshots,” are more expensive for Google to provide than its traditional answers because generative AI consumes far more computing resources.

The company has offered access to AI-powered features to only a select few users, including some subscribers to its Google One package, which offers benefits like extra cloud storage for a monthly fee.

Microsoft, which has a partnership with OpenAI, launched a GPT-enhanced search tool and a chatbot, now called Copilot, on Bing more than a year ago.

However, the new AI capabilities have done little to boost Bing’s market share, which lags far behind Google.

Some analysts warn that Google’s advertising arm could suffer if its search engine provided more complete AI-generated answers, causing users to click on advertised sites less.

Additionally, news companies that rely on traffic from Google fear that fewer users will visit their sites if big tech’s AI-powered search extracts information from their pages and presents it directly to users.

This year, Google made a new premium tier available to its consumer subscription service, Google One, for users who wanted to use its Gemini chatbot.

The company also added Gemini to Workspace, its suite of online productivity apps like Gmail and Docs.

It’s unclear how exactly the company would seek to integrate AI-powered search into these paid services, which offer different pricing tiers, or when the AI-powered search offering would be ready to launch.

Google could still decide to roll out certain elements of its experimental AI service to its main, free search engine over time, according to people familiar with its thinking.

The company said it is “not considering or working on” an ad-free search experience, but that it will “continue to develop new capabilities and premium services to enhance subscription offerings across Google.”

“For years, we’ve been reinventing Search to help people access information in the way that’s most natural to them,” Google said.

“With our generative AI experiments in Search, we’ve already served billions of queries, and we’re seeing positive growth in queries across all of our major markets. We’re continuing to rapidly improve the product to meet users’ changing needs.”

The company added that it has nothing to announce at this time.


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