It’s a great reminder that no business, no matter how large, is immune to disruption. Google is sitting on a database of (more or less) every web page ever and has spent years working on its voice assistant but, despite this, the interactions that are possible with “Hey Google!” still feel far less intuitive and informed than those you can have with ChatGPT.
This doesn’t mean I think the interactions with ChatGPT are particularly good, they are just markedly better. Overall, the tone and responses from ChatGPT are still like working a slightly snippy version of that guy who sits in the corner on a game show and regurgitates facts off a script or a particular worthy council worker who carefully gives you an answer to any question without actually saying anything committal at all.
Despite these limitations, millions of users have already used ChatGPT to answer queries that would normally have gone to Google. There is also a burgeoning crop of systems that use ChatGPT to generate copy for websites, such as Jasper, that threaten to swamp Google’s index with vast swathes of new text that it needs to index. That copy won’t be particularly good either, and Google is already making it clear that they won’t rank AI-generated content. They still have to scan it, determine that it is AI-generated, and discard it though. That all takes computing time and adds to Google’s costs. The bigger the web gets, the more it costs Google to index it. Tools like Jasper represent a real threat to the bottom line.
It’s nowhere near “game over” yet for Google though, as OpenAI and its peers will need to start thinking of ways to make money out of their technology soon. Subscriptions to ask ChatGPT questions won’t cut it when Google is answering questions for free and, if recent moves in copyright hold true, you won’t be able to generate anything with ChatGPT that can carry any value. As The Atlantic points out, that’s maybe a harder puzzle than how to turn “picture of two cats cuddling in a cup” into an endearing internet meme. OpenAI’s own prediction is that they will each $1 billion in revenue in 2024. This is a mere fraction of the $81 billion that Google is expected to pull in.
For what it’s worth, ChatGPT doesn’t think it will be replacing Google any time soon…