AdGuard Blog: Google’s new AI feature: a search for answers or a search for ads?

Gandalf_The_Grey

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Google says its new generative AI feature will start a “new era of search” by “unlocking new types of questions” and “transforming the way information is organized.” But a closer look at Google’s own promotional materials reveals a downside: you may have to face a barrage of ads every time you use it. But how many ads is too many? For Google, it seems, the more, the better.

Google offered a sneak peek at ad placements in its brand new Search Generative Experience (SGE) at an event for advertisers on May 23. There, Google revealed that ads would not only appear before and after the AI-powered snapshot, as originally announced, but would also infiltrate the AI-generated responses. And if the example Google gave is anything to go by, it’s not a pretty sight.

In the presentation showed by Google, an SGE user searched for “outdoor activities in Maui” and was greeted by two Google ads at the top of the search results before he could even see the AI’s suggestions. After scrolling down, the user could see some tips on outdoor activities to enjoy in Maui, framed in green to indicate that they were generated by AI.
At the risk of sounding too obvious, the excess of ads that Google might impose on users with its AI experience will ruin the otherwise cool idea of integrating AI with search. While we wouldn’t expect Google to refrain from including ads into its AI-powered search — after all Bing is doing that as well — oversaturating it with ads can backfire. If it does, Google will see it in the number of users who stick with or, rather, not stick with its SGE.

If you don’t want to see most ads in search results, use an ad blocker, such as AdGuard. As Google and Microsoft keep inventing new ways to sneak ads into their conversational AI’s answers, we will also be working on finding new ways to block them.

Another option is to use a completely ad-free paid search engine, such as Brave Search Premium. Sadly, another ad-free subscriptions-based search engine, Neeva, has just shut down. They had a noble vision of offering users personalization and privacy without ads — a vision that we share. But they faced a huge obstacle: getting users to switch from their default search settings. This shows how Google has entrenched itself as a dominant force on the search engine market, making it hard for users to choose alternatives. But by botching the introduction of AI with ads, Google may risk losing some of its loyal users and opening up opportunities for new competitors. We know it’s a long shot, but we would like to see that happen.
 

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