Microsoft’s recent decision to restrict access to Bing’s search index for its competitors’ AI chatbots has caused concern in the search engine industry. According to a Bloomberg report, Microsoft has notified two Bing-powered search engines to restrict access to its search index entirely if they continue to use Bing’s search index for their AI tools.
Search engines rely on search indexes, online maps that can easily access results related to a particular query. It is prohibitively expensive to index the entire web, so some search engines use Bing’s search index. Data collection for search chatbots is similarly expensive and time-consuming.
Microsoft licenses the Bing search index to multiple search engines, including DuckDuckGo, Yahoo, and You.com. DuckDuckGo combines Bing with its web crawler to provide search results, while You.com and Neeva also get some of their search results from Bing, saving them time and resources.
After Microsoft integrated the OpenAI AI chat engine into Bing in February, competitors began to pack the popular technology into their products. DuckDuckGo has introduced DuckAssist, a feature that uses AI to summarize search results. You.com and Neeva have introduced AI-powered search services called YouChat and NeevaAI.
Microsoft’s decision to restrict access to Bing search index for AI chatbots has implications for smaller search engines that will have difficulty finding alternatives if access to Microsoft’s index is cut off. Bing has been widely used as a replacement for Google by other search engines because only two companies, Microsoft and Google, index the entire web, and Google has restrictions on how that index can be used.
With more companies adopting features like OpenAI ChatGPT, Microsoft wants Bing Chatbot to be the only AI chatbot to use its search data. The tool already features the latest and most powerful version of OpenAI’s language model, GPT-4, to answer various questions, create summaries, generate code, post on social media, and more.
Microsoft’s decision to restrict access to the Bing search index for AI chatbots may be viewed as anti-competitive behaviour, which may attract regulatory scrutiny. The search engine industry is closely watching this development, and how Microsoft’s competitors will respond to this move remains to be seen.