The Battle for AI Search: A Web Revolution
Explore the dawn of a new era in Internet search—AI and the role of ChatGPT. Tech giants Microsoft & Google are revolutionising how we find information.
Is the website concept dying? Let’s find out!
- Getting Started
- The Web Today
- Advertising Changes Search
- SEO and Affiliates
- The AI Future
- AI Goes All In On Websites
- AI and Websites Coexist
- The Move to Platforms
- Expert Opinion
ChatGPT was released a year ago, on November 30, 2022. Following its inauguration, two of the biggest tech giants in the world, Microsoft and Google, are now involved in a brutal war to integrate real conversational AI. Although in the context, the primary focus here is which one of these will come out on top eventually, the war ultimately marks a significant change that is going to take place in terms of how the Internet is going to work.
The concept of a website that we’ve grown comfortable with may soon become a thing of the past.
Let’s delve into three possible scenarios that could reshape how we use the web in the span of 10 to 20 years. But first, we need to understand the present context.
AI Search Impact – Dive into the battle between Microsoft, Google, and the fate of the Internet. 🌐💡
A Rewind: The Evolution of Websites and SEO
Twenty years ago, the Internet revolution began with humble, independent blobs of information-centric websites, driven by passion rather than commercial motives. Back then, finding the websites you required was a challenge until the advent of search engines, which strived to organise this vast pool of information.
Google emerged as the game changer by cracking the code of effective search. The launch of AdWords in December 2000 led to the incorporation of advertisements in search results. Consequently, website owners began realising the business potential of the Internet, apart from its fun aspect.
As search engines gained popularity, an unspoken agreement emerged between websites and search engines. In exchange for free and indecisive access to content from websites, search engines directed user traffic towards them, and this ‘silent pact’ formed the basis of the modern Internet. Even the media industry has progressively accepted this direct or indirect agreement.
In time, both sides exploited this understanding to their benefit where websites started implementing strategies such as keyword stuffing and link farming to rank higher in search results. The more traffic they attracted, the higher their financial profitability, leading to the inception of what we now call ‘Search Engine Optimisation‘ (SEO).
Simultaneously, search engines were raking in substantial revenue, thanks to SEO practices and the rise of affiliate links. However, the framework’s functionality heavily depended on the reciprocity of traffic for content. The advent of AI search chatbots threatens to disrupt this balance. Regardless of which company—Google, Bing, or even Yahoo—successfully pioneers disruptive AI, the impending transformation is unmistakable.
Conversational AI: Here to Stay
With ChatGPT being the fastest tech to reach 100 million users, it’s clear that conversational AI is not a passing phase but a long-lasting trend. However, making sense of such complex technology can be daunting.
“Everyone likes to throw around AI as a buzzword these days, but the ones that will be able to ride this wave are those who really understand how artificial intelligence works at its core.“
Three Scenarios for the Future of Web Search
1. Full Integration of AI into Websites
With the recent rollout of a new Bing, users have been astounded by its ability to decipher complex problems and offer detailed solutions. It’s predicted that increasingly more people will opt for the chatbot’s convenience over traditional search link browsing. If this shift becomes substantial, it may not be long before search results omit these links altogether, with the AI chatbot taking centre stage. This radical shift may leave websites in a peripheral position, similar to Wikipedia’s footnotes, contributing to the dissolution of the existing web structure.
2. Web Monetisation and AI Models
To maintain the existing balance of web economics, search engines must discover ways to monetize AI chatbots. Contextual advertisement placement and paid or subscription-based chatbots are likely solutions. The search engine Neeva is already exploring this route. As AI chatbots improve their revenue streams, providing valuable, up-to-date information to users becomes crucial.
Unlike ChatGPT, Bing’s chatbot uses a base AI model to browse the web and respond to inquiries. This model’s design allows for individual website contributions to specific answers to be identified and potentially compensated. This could lead to a shift from traditional SEO to a system focused on providing information to AI models, possibly resulting in “AI feeding optimisation” (AIFO).
3. AI and Web Coexistence
There’s also the possibility that AI search and traditional search methods will coexist. Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, has expressed optimism about the duo’s coexistence, pointing out that the new Bing extensively features links to source materials and encourages further exploration of topics via these links. As evidenced by the ‘zero-click search’ preview box in Google search results, the Internet may not undergo a total overhaul but instead experience adjustments in its mechanics.
While AI models can provide basic responses and solutions, users may choose to conduct further research using AI suggestions as a starting point. Despite the occasional inaccuracies of AIs at this stage, it’s clear that even if websites are not eliminated, traffic from searches may gradually dwindle.
The Platform Revolution, Online Communities, and Content Creators
There’s another conceivable shift on the horizon: the transition from websites to online platforms. These gateways to the Internet, like YouTube, Reddit, Twitter, and Medium, have gained popularity due to their simplicity and functionality, despite their controversies. With AI search chatbots, these platforms may become more accessible on search engines, prompting more content creators to migrate from websites to platforms.
David Imel, co-host of the Waveform podcast and writer for Android Authority, echoes this sentiment. He points out that although AI will affect search engines where the impact may not be as extensive as expected, but the current incorporation of chatbot technology into platforms like Google Assistant already offers instant responses. As these transformations unfold, stay updated about the AI advancements and the future of the Internet. And always remember to adapt to the technology.
Microsoft and Google are battling it out to include conversational AI in the world’s most commonly used searches. This could potentially change the internet’s framework, perhaps even making the idea of a website defunct. This war took place after ChatGPT was released last year on the 30th of November, 2022. Historically, websites allowed search engines to use their content freely in exchange for user traffic. This balance propelled the modern web’s growth, with search engine optimisation (SEO) becoming integral for websites looking to increase traffic and thereby ad revenue. However, AI chatbots threaten to disrupt this order by eliminating the need for users to visit multiple websites.
One future possibility involves AI chatbots superseding traditional websites altogether and companies may decide to emphasise chatbot experiences once user data shows a clear preference for this over browsing multiple links. Consequently, websites could lose significant traffic, and web content creators might have to find other ways to generate revenue. Compensation might switch to a pay-per-use format based on how often an AI uses a piece of content to provide an answer.
Interestingly, the Internet may simultaneously return to its roots within online platforms such as YouTube & Reddit and AI chatbots might further bridge the gap between search engines and these platforms, incentivising the latter to open up their content libraries. Finally, AI should strive to live harmoniously with websites rather than replace them, as users might still require one or two sites to solve complex problems comprehensively. Multiple futures appear possible, but regardless of the outcome, AI’s integration into search engines is set to revolutionise the Internet as we know it.
Image concepts developed by the author
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