Microsoft Corp. has reportedly threatened to restrict access to its internet-search data if rival search engines continue using it for their artificial intelligence (AI) chat products. This data, sourced from Microsoft’s Bing search index, is a comprehensive map of the internet that can be quickly scanned in real time. Companies like Apollo Global Management Inc.’s Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, You.com, and Neeva Inc. license the data for their own web search services.
In February, Microsoft integrated a version of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, an AI-powered chat technology, into Bing. The move sparked interest among rival companies, who quickly developed their own AI chatbots. Alphabet Inc.’s Google released Bard, its conversational AI product, while DuckDuckGo introduced DuckAssist, a feature that uses AI to summarize answers to search queries. You.com and Neeva Inc. also unveiled AI-driven search services, YouChat and NeevaAI.
These search chatbots seek to merge ChatGPT’s conversational abilities with the information provided by a conventional search engine. Due to the high costs associated with indexing the entire web, DuckDuckGo, You.com, and Neeva use Bing to provide some of their search data. Building a search chatbot would entail similar financial and logistical challenges.
However, Microsoft has warned at least two customers that using its Bing search index to power their AI chat tools breaches the terms of their contracts, according to anonymous sources familiar with the confidential dispute. The Redmond, Washington-based tech giant may revoke the licenses granting access to its search index, which would significantly impact smaller search engines.
A Microsoft statement said, “We’ve been in touch with partners who are out of compliance as we continue to consistently enforce our terms across the board.” The company added, “We’ll continue to work with them directly and provide any information needed to find a path forward.”
If Microsoft were to cut off access to its index, smaller search engines would struggle to find an alternative source. Microsoft and Google are the only two companies that index the entire web, and due to Google’s restrictions on the use of its index, most other search engines have turned to Bing for their data needs.
Microsoft’s threat to restrict access to its search data highlights the intensifying competition among tech giants in the AI chatbot space. The increasing reliance on AI-powered tools for communication and information retrieval has raised the stakes in this battle for market dominance. As Microsoft enforces its terms and protects its proprietary technology, smaller search engines may have to rethink their strategies to stay afloat in the increasingly competitive market.
While it remains unclear how this dispute will be resolved, one thing is certain: the development and use of AI chatbots in the search engine industry are unlikely to slow down. As technology continues to advance and companies race to create the best AI-driven search services, these tensions may continue to shape the competitive landscape for years to come.