While most have marveled at the capabilities of LLMs, it’s not yet been clear how they could compete with search. Each query on GPT-4, for instance, costs money, while search is free. But Bing Chat seems to have already found a workaround to the problem, and has sounded the bugle in the search wars that are almost certain to ensure.
Bing Chat now has ads in its answers, a Twitter user has discovered. On being asked which is the cheapest Honda car, Bing Chat replied: The cheapest Honda car for 2023 is the Civic Sport which starts at around $24,650 according to True Car (Ad)”. The citation was a clickable link, which took users to the relevant website.
Microsoft has also confirmed having ads in Bing Chat. “We are also exploring additional capabilities for publishers including our more than 7,500 Microsoft Start partner brands. We recently met with some of our partners to begin exploring ideas and to get feedback on how we can continue to distribute content in a way that is meaningful in traffic and revenue for our partners. As we look to continue to evolve the model together, we shared some early ideas we’re exploring including:
• An expanded hover experience where hovering over a link from a publisher will display more links from that publisher giving the user more ways to engage and driving more traffic to the publisher’s website.
• For our Microsoft Start partners, placing a rich caption of Microsoft Start licensed content beside the chat answer helping to drive more user engagement with the content on Microsoft Start where we share the ad revenue with the partner. We’re also exploring placing ads in the chat experience to share the ad revenue with partners whose content contributed to the chat response,” Microsoft said in a blogpost.
This would appear to be a gamechanger — LLMs suddenly have a business model with which they can operate. Search has been among the most successful products in history because it was not only useful, but also allowed companies to advertise the first few links. If LLMs can similarly have sponsored links in their answers, LLMs could end up having a similar business model. This could enable companies like OpenAI and Bing to give away their answers for free, and even make some money in the process. Many had been skeptical of whether LLMs could replace Google Search, but with ads, they LLMs might’ve found the missing link as they look to displace search engines.