Google I/O developer conference featured many new updates and upgrades coming to the Google workspace or might be released in the coming months but one of which went under the radar and can be described as a “nuclear bomb” is the “Google Search Engine AI feature”.
Google is set to make the most radical change to the way it shows users and search engine results on Google. Google, which became the biggest search engine in the world in the early 2000s due to its ability to crawl, gather information, and present them to you in the form of search results, is making plans to step it up further with the use of artificial intelligence.
This new feature, which is a huge advantage to people who make use of the Google search engine for their searches, is however a huge disadvantage to the online publishing industry which is barely struggling to survive.
Google in its demonstration on Wednesday, showed the world how it plans to use generative AI in search engine results, this feature which had not been rolled out yet to the general public might be the game changer when it finally drops. The tech giant demonstrated using an example search inquiry that reads “What’s better for a family with kids under 3 and a dog, Bryce Canyon or Arches?”.
This search query about U.S national parks using traditional Google Search would usually not provide a straightforward answer. However, with the use of Google AI-powered search, the answer is provided in a conversational style while considering both the age of the children and the dog.
How does Google’s AI-powered Engine work?
It’s very simple! Generative AI which is developed to read through everything that’s available on the internet, then generates an answer using that information which it reads through in the form of a conversation. There are also links provided by the side which could help provide further answers if the user wishes to search further.
What Does This Mean For The Online Publishing Industry?
Well, it’s not good news. The online publishing industry has generally relied on providing answers to user search queries in the form of articles, publications, etc but will now have to compete with Google’s AI-powered engine which is providing answers to hard questions using all of the content available on the open web. This means search users don’t have to click on the link which leads to the webpages where the article is.
The modern online publishing industry relies on these clicks of search users for Ads, subscriptions, newsletters, and the like to make money. This is true for even large publishers like New York Times and Forbes, and even independent journalists who publish articles on places like Substack and Twitter.
This begs the question of if searchers will ever click on the links provided by the side. Although Google assures that searchers will click on the link in order to maintain transparency about where the information is gotten from, this is like saying you would click on Wikipedia’s sources at the bottom of an online encyclopedia entry, after reading about a topic. This is rare as most users mostly read the Wikipedia entry without bothering about the source link.
One could even consider it as a form of plagiarism, which was the opinion of one tech critic who wrote in a Substack post on Thursday. Regardless of what it may look like, the likely result remains fewer clicks on the website link of content creators and easy answers provided by Google’s AI-powered search engine, which is feeding on all the information provided by content creators. This increases search users’ reliance on Google products, to which Google could sell Ads, which would have originally been sold by publishers on their websites.
This is a huge game changer and will likely have a huge impact on commercial web profitability for content creators hence many might shut down due to the fact that Google Search owns about 89% of the market share in the U.S. and at least 94% of the world market share. Google Search is basically where everyone goes to find answers to their questions.
Although, according to the Verge, Google did not announce when the new search feature would be enabled, the company, however, disclosed that it is rolling out the feature on a trial basis in the coming weeks and doesn’t intend to rush things. This is hard to believe due to the recent hype around AI competitions like ChatGPT and the need to gain a significant share in the new AI market. It would not come as a surprise if Google speeds up things and launches soon.