Microsoft threatens to restrict access to rival search engine data on AI chat products
Microsoft Corp. has threatened to cut off access to its internet search data, which it licenses to competing search engines if they don’t stop using it as the basis for their own artificial intelligence chat products, according to people close to the dispute.
The software maker licenses data from its Bing search index – a map of the internet that can be quickly scanned in real time – to other companies that offer web searches, such as Yahoo and DuckDuckGo. Apollo Global Management Inc. In February, Microsoft integrated a cousin of ChatGPT, OpenAI’s AI-powered chat technology, into Bing.
Rivals quickly moved to deploy their own AI chatbots as hype built around the buzzing technology. This week, Alphabet Inc.’s Google released Bard, its conversational AI product. DuckDuckGo, a search engine with an emphasis on privacy, has introduced DuckAssist, a feature that uses artificial intelligence to summarize responses to search queries. You.com and Neeva Inc. — two newer search engines that debuted in 2021 — have also launched AI-powered search services YouChat and NeevaAI.
These search chatbots aim to combine the conversational skills of ChatGPT with the information provided by a classic search engine. DuckDuckGo, You.com and the usual Neeva search engines all use Bing to provide some of their information because indexing the entire web is expensive – it requires servers to store the data and constant crawling of the internet to integrate updates. It would be equally complex and expensive to gather this data for a search chatbot.
Microsoft has told at least two customers that using its Bing search index to power their AI chat tools violates the terms of their contract, according to the people, who spoke anonymously because they were discussing a confidential dispute. The Redmond, Wash.-based technology company said it may terminate licenses providing access to its search index, the sources said.
“We have been in contact with partners who are non-compliant as we continue to consistently enforce our terms across all areas,” Microsoft said in a statement. “We will continue to work directly with them and provide all the information necessary to find a way forward.”
If they were cut from Microsoft’s index, smaller search engines would struggle to find an alternative. Microsoft and Google are the only two companies that index the entire web, and Google’s limitations on the use of its index have led to nearly every other search engine using Bing.
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