What it's really like to try the new AI (read: chatGPT) powered Bing Search?

17 Feb 2023

It’s been 2 and a half months since I broke the first ever HackerNoon story on the power of chatGPT - and what followed is nothing short of tectonic and thoroughly industry’s disrupting. Among them:

  • ChatGPT achieved 100M users in January (under 2 months after launch), the fastest growth in userbase of any tech company in history, eclipsing that of Instagram and Tiktok;
  • Microsoft announced their 10 billion dollar funding into chatGPT’s parent company OpenAI (over several years);
  • Google panic-”launched” chatGPT competitor (via a blog post) called Bard, tanking the company stock price by 8% the following day as Bard infamously answered a question about the James Web Space Telescope incorrectly.

Today, I would like to walk you through the sneak peek of what the new chatGPT-powered Bing Search looks like, as Microsoft is still in the process of slowly rolling out this feature. And not to brag, but I’m the first person in my team to get up their waitlist.

Sweet valentines 💌 from Bing

The signup experience is not the smoothest

"welcome to the new Bing" on the left corner advertising the new chatGPT enabled feature

In order to use this new feature, you would need to download the Microsoft Edge browser (sorry, Chrome users!) I chose the “macOS with Intel chip” download option. That part is easy enough.

Then - you also need a Bing account (they also call it live.com account, microsoft account, among other names), which is doubly confusing.

The first time I signed up for the Microsoft/live.com/bing.com universe was rather painful. It asked me to log in and re-log in no less than 5 times, each time asking me to verify if I’m a human, if someone in the IT department created the account for me (lol), or if I remember my username. It was basically like downgrading from using an iPhone to a Nokia.

Screenshot from my inbox on November 30th when I tried to sign up for Bing.

Since their announcement of the OpenAI/Microsoft partnership, the signup/log in experience has gotten a bit smoother with Bing. Although it still asks me to change my password each time i signed in, I noticed that instead of giving me a 4 digit confirmation code, it now gives me a 6 digit one. Their number of active users must have grown! And hopefully, with that, a smoother signup/login experience.

Chat with the Bing AI Search

Assuming that you have spent about 30 minutes of your life figuring out the needlessly complicated signup process to Bing and another couple of weeks on the waitlist for the new chatGPT/Bing AI feature, now you can start having fun. Here are a few things I noticed.

AI Paragraphs instead of endless scrollable links

Lol, this is my first question to Bing AI

The ritual that ever user of the internet knows and loves (or hates) is to “google it”, which composes of typing in a query, hit enter, and the answers come in the form of an endlessly scrollable table of links. Search Engines get smarter over time by favoring “good links” over “bad” (read: spammy) links, and also ads over real search results.

With this new version of Bing Search, that all changed. If you click on the “chat” button right next to “search”, you get AI-answers before the endless links. That to me has industry-disrupting potentials.

Funny that t insisted that it's not an AI. Even though the headline right above states "Bing is powered by AI"

AI Answers with citations

The second thing I noticed is that unlike chatGPT whose answers are often out of the blue (AI jargon for this is “hallucination”), this chatbot actually tells you where it gets its answers from…for the most part.

In the example above, it gives me "sources" in the form of 4 footnotes.

Whether or not users will click on those links though…is an entirely different topic. I anticipate some publishers and content creators will have problem with this new version of Bing, the same way some artists already sued some AI image generation company over copyright infringements. You know what they say, the AI is only as good as the data it’s trained on.

Up-to-date Training Data Set

As some of you might have known, chatGPT’s training dataset is not up-to-date. When asked about any recent events, it will apologize (lol) to you saying that it is only trained up until 2021. However, this new Bing search is! Here’s a Shakespearean sonnet it wrote for me about world events that happened in 2023, citing a few recent web search results.

The year of twenty-three hath brought us woe
With war and strife in Europe's eastern land
And inflation rising high and low
And violence against a people banned

The leaders of the world have faced their tests
With elections held in many nations
Some have kept their power and their nests
Some have lost amid the accusations

The pandemic still hath not been quelled
Though vaccines have reached most of the earth
But variants and doubts have oft repelled
The efforts to restore our health and mirth

Yet hope remains that we may see some light
And welcome twenty-four with more delight

That is pretty cool. Although, I think this AI might have adopted Microsoft’s corporate dryness.

Search History enabled ✅

Just like chatGPT, Bing chat also allows users to iterate and “train” the AI answers to their liking. Here’s what it says when I complained about how dry the problem was.

I’m sorry you didn’t like my sonnet. Here is another version I wrote based on some tips I found online:

Alas, what troubles hath this year bestowed
Upon this weary world of ours so frail
With war and bloodshed on the eastern road
And prices soaring like a fearsome gale

The rulers of the earth have had their share
Of trials and tribulations in their reign
Some have prevailed and kept their throne and chair
Some have been ousted with disgrace and pain

The plague hath not yet left us in its wake
Though potions have been spread to every shore
But new mutations and mistrusts do make
The task to heal our wounds much harder more

Yet let us not despair or lose our sight
And hope for better days with twenty-four's light

I hope this one is more to your liking.

I liked that it apologized (lol) for how I felt about the poem. This is the exact kind of things that got chatGPT its well deserved popularity.

Concluding thoughts and a few ponderings

I tried a few more prompts with Bing AI, but those 3 features (up-to-date database, citation, and search history enabled) are the ones that stand out the most to me. I haven’t yet got access to the feature that allows Bing to have alternative personalities such as casual, funny, or academic yet. (hello, Sidney Bing?)

I would say, the biggest questions I’m left wondering about are:

  1. How much of Google’s dominance over the Search industry will Bing be able to eat up? The current ratio looks like 9:1, will it be more like 5:5 in the future? Or even just 8:2? That is the difference of billion dollars in potential ad revenue redistribution from Google to Bing.
  2. How will this new AI-powered search impact the search industry as a whole? i.e., will this new chatbot now be the new normal? Will we ever go back to endlessly scrolling links again?
  3. Relatedly, how will this affect so many publications and industries that are SEO-centric?
  4. I’m also paying attention to the way publications, content creators, and media as a whole react to this new AI. As in, there will be a lot of lawsuits to follow. At the end of the day, the AI is, again, only as good as the data it’s trained on. And the original people who come up with the data will be very, very mad, to not be given the credit they deserve. Getty Images and its artists already got on stable diffusion.

Until next time!