Report: ‘Panicked’ Google Rebuilding Search Engine in AI Race

Google is reportedly building an all-new search engine amid increased competition from AI-driven rivals.

A report Sunday (April 16) by The New York Times says the tech giant was shocked last month to learn Samsung was considering replacing Google as the default search engine on its devices in favor of Microsoft’s Bing, which had recently added new artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

According to internal Google messages seen by the Times, Google’s response to the Samsung threat was “panic,” as the company’s contract with the Korean tech company was $3 billion per year.

Reached for comment by PYMNTS, a Google spokesperson said the company had been bringing AI to its search product for years.

“We’ve done so in a responsible and helpful way that maintains the high bar we set for delivering quality information,” the spokesperson said. “Not every brainstorm deck or product idea leads to a launch, but as we’ve said before, we’re excited about bringing new AI-powered features to Search, and will share more details soon.”

The Times report says the new features, code-named “Magi,” are being tested and tweaked now, with a new search engine that would offer a much more personalized experience that attempts to anticipate users’ needs.

Sources tell the newspaper Google has been concerned about AI-powered rivals since OpenAI first demonstrated ChatGPT in November. Soon after, the sources said, Google launched a task force to start building AI products for its search division.

Google said earlier this month it would add conversational AI to its search engine as it looked to compete with Microsoft’s efforts in the space.

Sundar Pichai, the company’s CEO, told The Wall Street Journal AI would boost Google’s search functions, and dismissed the idea that chatbots could threaten the company’s search business.

“The opportunity space, if anything, is bigger than before,” Pichai said.

Meanwhile, other tech firms are apparently launching their own AI products. Last week saw reports that Elon Musk — owner of Tesla, Twitter and SpaceX — had been quietly putting together the personnel and resources to create his own answer to ChatGPT.

A report by the Financial Times said Musk had recruited engineers from leading AI labs such as DeepMind. Sources told the newspaper the billionaire had begun to consider the idea of an OpenAI rival as that company — which he helped found — began its rapid progression.

As PYMNTS wrote, the move is an ironic one on the part of Musk, as he was one of the first people to sign an open letter published by AI watchdog group Future of Life Institute in March on the potential dangers of the technology.

“Should we automate away all the jobs, including the fulfilling ones? Should we develop nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us? Should we risk loss of control of our civilization?” the letter read.

“Such decisions must not be delegated to unelected tech leaders. Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable.”

Another irony, as PYMNTS noted: Musk left OpenAI in 2018 over disagreements with his co-founders about the commercialization of their product.