Google’s AI search era officially begins

After Google’s developer’s conference yesterday, online search might never be the same.

What happened: Google unveiled Search Generative Experience (SGE), its new AI-enhanced version of Search. Unlike talking to a chatbot, SGE supplements Search queries with “snapshots” that succinctly summarize relevant information, like an AI-supercharged version of Search’s existing Featured Snippets function.

  • In one test, an exec typed “Why is sourdough bread so popular?” into Search. Above the typical results, a summary of the bread’s benefits appeared, backed up by links. 

The feature—which will first be made available in the US before an eventual global rollout—is only triggered by queries where the AI deems its input would provide value and is designed not to appear for queries involving touchy subjects like health and finances.

Why it matters: SGE blows Google’s own Bard chatbot and Microsoft’s Bing Chat out of the water. It’s an example of product development in action and, if fine-tuned, could give new life to an online search experience that users have been increasingly dissatisfied with. 

  • Google Search has always struggled with giving reliable results for user-specific queries, like “How do I spend a day in Toronto with two kids for under $200?” With SGE’s ability to corral Google’s vast swaths of info, this could change.    

Yes, but: Like most generative AI, SGE is still a work in progress. It isn’t ready to answer  more creatively challenging questions and still has kinks, like when it offered up a seemingly personal opinion as part of a query response (something it’s not supposed to do).  

Zoom out: Alphabet shares were up 4.10% on the day, mirroring a trend throughout the markets where AI has become the first, second, and third thing on every investor’s mind.—QH