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competition Microsoft on Tuesday unveiled a new version of its search engine, which can now offer precise answers, make comparisons, write LinkedIn posts or summarize long reports

What if the looming AI battle resulted in a big reset on the Web? This is the hope of Microsoft, which unveiled on Tuesday a redesign of its search engine Bing incorporating a new version of the conversational robot ChatGPT from the start-up OpenAI. Which allows Bing to generate accurate answers, and more just links, but also to summarize long reports or write a LinkedIn post by itself. A frontal challenge to the monopoly of Google, which has just announced the test launch of its chatbot “Bard”, with AI functions that should soon be integrated into its search engine. “The race starts today,” Microsoft boss Satya Nadella said from his Redmond HQ.

To access the new Bing, you have to sign up for a waiting list, and download the Microsoft Edge browser, which is also getting a facelift. Microsoft promises wider access in the coming weeks. And, eventually, to other browsers.

ChatGPT “next gen

Sam Altman, the co-founder of OpenAI, who shook up Silicon Valley with his chatbot ChatGPT, was on stage. He did not confirm that the new version, GPT-4, was hiding under the hood of Bing, simply talking about a “next gen”. The main difference is that the bot now has access to the Web, for up-to-date answers, such as “Give me the list of the top winners of Sunday’s Grammy Awards.” And the results, unlike OpenAI’s ChatGPT, are sourced and anotated.

Bing offers a window on the right dedicated to the smart assistant, in addition to the regular results. A new “Chat” tab allows you to chat with the robot. The robot is able to compare the best vacuum cleaners, with their strengths and weaknesses, to suggest a menu from ingredients in the fridge, to plan a vacation in Mexico. But also to summarize a 15-page article or to write a Linkedin post: the user chooses the tone (corporate, enthusiastic, etc.) and only has to play the editor.

All these functions could save a lot of time. There is still a problem: if search engines offer detailed answers, users might not go to sites whose content is digested, even if a link is present in the footnote. Microsoft has not clarified whether it plans to share revenue with publishers.

“Extraordinary toy”

It is a “co-pilot” but the Internet user remains at the controls, underlined Yusuf Mehdi, a vice-president of the group of Redmond (north-west of the United States), during a press conference whose topic had been kept secret until the last minute.

The inventor of Windows has invested $1 billion in OpenAI in 2019 and has just made a new multi-billion deal with the California startup founded in 2015. OpenAI’s advances have put Microsoft back in the online innovation race.

As of last December, Google held about 84 percent of the online search market, compared to Bing’s 9 percent, according to Statista. In one year, Microsoft’s engine has nibbled 2% from the industry giant.

“We need innovation in online search because this technology is so important to humanity. And so we need competition,” Jordi Ribas, a Microsoft vice president who has worked on Bing for 15 years, told AFP. “That’s why I’ve never been discouraged.

His team has worked tirelessly to find the right balance, knowing that ChatGPT is also known for its sometimes completely wrong answers, given with great aplomb. “It’s an amazing toy, but it’s still a bit of a toy. The question was how to turn it into a tool that doesn’t hallucinate (…) and helps you accomplish tasks in minutes that used to take hours,” he detailed.

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