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Microsoft says Bing can be default search engine for ChatGPT users

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks at an event on the company’s campus in Redmond, Washington, on Feb. 7, 2023.

Chona Kasinger | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Microsoft said Tuesday that it will offer Bing as the default search engine in OpenAI’s viral ChatGPT chatbot.

It’s the latest tie-up between the two companies, which are at the center of the boom in generative artificial intelligence. Microsoft has invested billions of dollars in OpenAI and is using the startup’s AI chatbot technology inside search, email, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and now to analyze data.

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“This is just the start of what we plan to do with our partners in OpenAI to bring the best of Bing to the ChatGPT experience,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said onstage at Microsoft’s Build conference in Seattle on Tuesday.

In addition to cash, OpenAI relies on Microsoft’s Azure cloud for computing needs. In tandem, the companies are taking on Google, which has developed its own generative AI models for search and other products and is also investing heavily in startups in the space.

With the latest announcement, subscribers to the ChatGPT Plus service will be able to add Bing search by enabling a plugin, Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s consumer marketing chief, wrote in a blog post. Users of ChatGPT’s free service will soon be able to do the same.

“ChatGPT will now have a world-class search engine built-in to provide timelier and more up-to-date answers with access from the web,” Mehdi wrote. “Now, ChatGPT answers can be grounded by search and web data and include citations so you can learn more — all directly from within chat.”

Microsoft is trying to expand the use of Bing, which has for years struggled to gain market share from Google. For every percentage point of search advertising share the company picks up, it would generate $2 billion in additional revenue, Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood said in February.

Since ChatGPT became available in November, one of its limitations, according to critics, is that it hasn’t been able to discuss recent events. The Bing chatbot, powered by OpenAI’s technology, that Microsoft announced in February was different because it was able to draw on current information to provide answers to typed questions.

OpenAI sought to extend the capability of ChatGPT when it announced the concept of plugins in March. Expedia, Instacart, Shopify and Slack are among the online services that have launched plugins, but there’s a waitlist for others who want to join.

Microsoft said developers will be able to build plugins that work in ChatGPT, Bing and its Copilot chatbot coming to Microsoft 365 apps such as Word and Excel.

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