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Google considers charging for AI powered search

google gemini

The Financial Times is reporting today that Google is debating the idea of charging for features it deems "premium" which includes those that are powered by generative artificial intelligence (Gen AI), such as its Gemini AI assistant. This would particularly apply to its search engine and would be the first time that it would create a paywall for its core products.

Google's Gemini AI (nee Bard) became available to users in February 2024 and has been integrated into Gmail and Docs already, but charging for the ability to utilise it in the Google search would note a significant shift in Google's policy of keeping its products free to use and not requiring payment for features. Google had the following to say on these reports:

“For years, we’ve been reinventing Search to help people access information in the way that’s most natural to them..." "With our generative AI experiments in Search, we’ve already served billions of queries, and we’re seeing positive Search query growth in all of our major markets. We’re continuing to rapidly improve the product to serve new user needs.”

Currently, engineers within Google are working on the technology needed to deploy this service, but it isn't decided whether the product will launch, as this falls to the executives. Meanwhile, Microsoft continues to push forward with its AI tools in Copilot, with focus shifting from Teams to Copilot in the past few months showing that this is where the leading tech businesses see the most potential for growth.

According to the report, part of Google's reasoning for charging for AI-powered search is that presenting the snapshots of such results, similar to those seen in Bing Chat, consumes a lot more computing resources compared to the traditional list of blue links that we are all familiar with. As a result, Google may be looking to recoup some of that cost to maintain its largest income stream which it reported as $175bn in revenue last year.

The report also adds that Google has nothing to announce at the moment in the generative AI-powered search market.

Source: Financial Times

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