Microsoft’s industrial-scale theft of hand-written information is about to destroy thousands of small businesses, and I am entirely unsurprised.
Today, Microsoft unveiled ChatGPT integration with Bing and Microsoft Edge. It’s a huge moment for Bing, which remains the butt of almost every search engine-related joke. Bing has long played second fiddle to Google, owing to Google’s superior algorithmic search accuracy, Google’s global focus on localized results, and better tools. Bing has limped on mainly by bribing users into using it with Microsoft Rewards, and providing at least adequate search results for the most basic queries. But for the first time since, well, forever, Bing potentially has a shot at a big comeback.
Google was recently put on “red alert,” as the Microsoft-backed OpenAI consortium unveiled ChatGPT-3. The toolset represents a conversational AI that can create accurate, human-sounding text based on virtually any context. ChatGPT-3 is, however, trained entirely on content from the web, learning more rapidly than any team of human beings could possibly dream of. As part of Microsoft’s efforts to make Bing relevant, it’s taking this very rare opportunity to offer a new vision for search engines, which essentially removes a user’s need to “click” through to an article.
In some of Microsoft’s examples, you can see above how AI-enhanced search queries presented to the end user. It’s not dissimilar to Clippy or Cortana back in the day, offering suggestions to the user based on their present activity. However, thanks to the power of ChatGPT-3, the suggestions are actually well-written and relevant. And of course they are, because the information is “borrowed” from trusted sources.
How does Microsoft compensate websites for this functionality? Well, by offering a tiny link in the footer of the query, of course. A link that literally nobody is ever going to click on. Furthermore, only three links are visible, and that’s only after you click through to “See More,” much like on a YouTube description page — another place nobody clicks. Booths.co.uk, Tasty.co, and other websites that helped inform ChatGPT’s search results are never going to be compensated for the work they did for Microsoft here.
On a long enough timeline, it could make guide writing untenable and unprofitable for websites. Here on Windows Central, for example, a huge part of our traffic comes from our Windows 10 and Windows 11 help guides. Without that traffic, it’s hard to fathom how much of a negative impact that would have on the site’s health and viability.
I’m sure Microsoft won’t lose sleep over it, but the irony is that if websites stop offering informational content because it’s no longer financially viable, it could make the internet dumber as a result. If fewer humans are writing content, that would likely result in less high-quality information for ChatGPT to steal. In that scenario, how will it remain so smart, I wonder? And sure, there are plenty of people writing guide content for free on forums and Reddit that ChatGPT-3. Call me crazy, but I’m of the opinion that those smart people should be paid for their efforts by those platforms, rather than shareholders.
I’m sure the smart people at Microsoft have considered these possibilities, but the ethical considerations and long-term health of the internet isn’t necessarily a concern for corporations whose function revolves around quarterly shareholder profits. One thing is for sure, these types of AI models are going to upend the internet as we know it in the coming months and years ahead.