What would an OpenAI search engine look like, and would it get you to switch from Google?

OpenAI and ChatGPT
(Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

What you need to know

  • Recent rumors suggest that OpenAI could soon announce a search engine to compete with Google.
  • Evidence is scarce at this point, but there is enough to warrant a discussion about what a Google competitor powered by OpenAI could look like.
  • Perplexity and Microsoft's Bing already use OpenAI's GPT tech, so a hypothetical OpenAI search engine would need to differentiate itself from those search engines as well as Google.

OpenAI may make one of the biggest tech announcements of the year in less than a week. Recent rumors suggest that the AI giant could announce a search engine to compete with Google on May 9, 2024. There isn't a ton of concrete evidence at this point, but there's enough information to force a discussion about what an OpenAI search engine would look like and if it could convince people to switch away from Google.

The recent smoke surrounding a potential OpenAI search engine is a post on X by Jimmy Apples, who claims that OpenAI who says an event on May 9 "might not be model release but search engine announcement." Yesterday, A Reddit post highlighted that the "search.chatgpt.com" domain and SSL certification have been created. 

The concept of an OpenAI search engine isn't new. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has discussed the possibility in the past.

"Google shows you 10 blue links, well, 13 ads and then 10 blue links, and that’s one way to find information. But the thing that’s exciting to me is not that we can go build a better copy of Google search, but that maybe there’s just some much better way to help people find and act on and synthesize information," said Altman in an episode of the Lex Fridman Podcast.

He added, "I don’t think it’s that interesting to say, “How do we go do a better job of giving you 10 ranked webpages to look at than what Google does?” Maybe it’s really interesting to go say, “How do we help you get the answer or the information you need? How do we help create that in some cases, synthesize that in others, or point you to it in yet others?”"

Altman also accurately pointed out that many have tried to make a better search engine than Google and that it's a challenging proposition.

OpenAI vs Bing

Bing Sinking into the Ocean

(Image credit: Windows Central | Bing Image Creator)

Of course, there already is a search engine that integrates real-time information with OpenAI's GPT tech, Bing. Microsoft's search engine utilizes GPT-4 to provide search summaries to answer queries. Microsoft took things a step further with Deep Search, which is a new feature that takes Bing's web index and ranking system and then enhances results with GPT-4.

So, with Bing already using GPT-4, what would an OpenAI search engine provide that Bing does not? I think the most obvious answer is that a new search engine from OpenAI wouldn't be held back by the Bing name. I honestly believe that OpenAI could ship an exact copy of Bing's Deep Search with different branding and draw interest from the press and general users alike. I don't think that's what OpenAI will do, but I say that to argue that the Bing name is an albatross around the neck of any company or tool that uses the brand.

OpenAI is a hot name in tech. Any quote from OpenAI's Sam Altman drives headlines and anything OpenAI does is followed closely. While OpenAI is close to Microsoft, the AI company is distant enough that it can earn praise (or criticism) on its own. OpenAI could make its own search engine and continue to power Microsoft's Bing and Copilot.

OpenAI vs Perplexity

Perplexity AI

Perplexity combines real-time information with OpenAI's GPT tech within a chat interface. (Image credit: Future)

ChatGPT is a powerful tool, but it has the heavy limitation of having a cutoff point for data. If you search for anything that requires recent news, ChatGPT will remind you that it can't provide real-time information and point you in the general direction of where you could find answers.

Perplexity is yet another tool that combines OpenAI's GPT tech with real-time information, but it does so in a way that's very different to Bing. Perplexity looks much more like ChatGPT than Bing does, including a chatbot interface that an untrained eye may confuse for ChatGPT.

"Perplexity is an alternative to traditional search engines, where you can directly pose your questions and receive concise, accurate answers backed up by a curated set of sources. It has a conversational interface, contextual awareness and personalization to learn your interests and preferences over time," explains Perplexity.

"Perplexity’s mission is to make searching for information online feel like you have a knowledgeable assistant guiding you, it is a powerful productivity and knowledge tool that can help you save time and energy with mundane tasks for a multitude of use cases."

If OpenAI does release its own search engine competitor, I think it will be more along the lines of Perplexity than Bing. In addition to the layout of Perplexity aligning with ChatGPT, Perplexity's mission is more in line with what OpenAI and ChatGPT aim for.

Making a Google clone infused with GPT tech isn't different enough from what already exists. There are plenty of traditional search engines on the market, many of which use AI. But a fully OpenAI-backed search engine alternative that guides you through the web? That may actually turn some heads.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com.

  • naddy69
    "What would an OpenAI search engine look like, and would it get you to switch from Google"

    I've never used Google, so no need to switch.
  • Laura Knotek
    I don't use AI, but Microsoft's version is so bad I wouldn't bother using it. https://www.zdnet.com/article/yikes-microsoft-copilot-failed-every-single-one-of-my-coding-tests/