The Google search experience “will evolve substantively over the next decade,” according to Google CEO Sundar Pichai in a wide-ranging interview with The Wall Street Journal.
Why we care. AI has already changed Google search – and continues to do so. The question is how much Google search will change in the coming years and what it all means for the organic and paid channels.
Google Search in 10 years. How will large language models (LLMs) and chat (e.g., Bard) change search in the next decade? Is this the end of link-based search? Pichai said it’s tough to predict, but ultimately it will be about understanding what users want and helping them accomplish it:
- “I think the experience will evolve substantively over the next decade. We have to meet users in terms of what they are looking for.”
Pichai was also asked whether the future Google Search may look more like “the original” Google (“10 blue links”) or Bard:
- “It may look like neither, or it will have elements of all that. I think we’ll be able to help users in much deeper ways. If I take a 10-year outlook, this will all be more ambiently available to users in radically different ways than we use them today. I think you’ll be able to do all of this in a much more personalized way, which means by nature we’ll be able to impact users in a deeper, meaningful way.”
The role of AI chatbots in search. Google has been using LLMs to improve search quality and the search experience. Pichai wants to bring the modern LLM capabilities into search – but stopped just short of saying “search” will evolve into “conversation”:
- “We are testing a variety of approaches so I don’t want to comment on the future iterations of it yet, but yes at a high level people come to Google to ask follow-up questions. We’ll be able to give them more powerful tools to be able to do that.”
Commercial potential. Pichai was elusive when asked what kind of commercial potential (e.g., Google Ads) he saw for LLMs and LLM search:
- “It’s tough to carve it out that way. You may be interested in ideas for how to celebrate a birthday, and at some point aspects of it become more commercial. We don’t come into it with the view of, we want to give you this commercial journey. It’s important to get the order right.”
Bard vs. Search overlap. Pichai once again made the point that Bard is not a search product. But, ultimately, Google Search and Bard are searching the web to provide users with answers:
- “Would there be queries which are overlapping? Absolutely. There are things we can do in Bard which may be difficult to do in search, or vice versa. I don’t view this as a constraint. I view this as a great opportunity to innovate.”
He also said Bard was an example of a time when being first “doesn’t matter”:
- “Throughout our history, there are many areas where we haven’t been the first to market something. We didn’t develop the first search engine. We didn’t develop the first browser or the first email product or the first mapping product, and so on.”
From from Pichai. Conversational AI ‘absolutely’ coming to Google Search, says CEO Sundar Pichai.
The interview. You can read edited excerpts from Pichai’s interview with The Wall Street Journal.