Microsoft has been trying to promote its Bing Chat search engine and Edge browser in various ways, but its latest attempt seems to have backfired. The company briefly ran a full-screen ad that looked like an AI chatbot answer when users searched for “Chrome” on Edge, but instead of providing information about Google's browser, it redirected them to news articles about Bing features.
The ad, which was spotted by The Verge and other outlets, had the headline “Bing: The Search Engine That Does More Than Just Search.” It claimed to be powered by Bing Chat AI, a feature that Microsoft introduced earlier this year to provide conversational answers to queries on Edge. However, the ad was clearly not an AI-generated response, as it repeated the same exact text every time and ignored the user's intent.
The ad also pushed down the actual search results for Chrome, making it harder for users to find what they were looking for. Some users may have mistaken the ad for a genuine AI answer and clicked on the links, only to be taken to Bing's own website or other sources that praised Bing's capabilities.
Microsoft product marketing director Jason Fischel told The Verge that the ad was part of an experiment that was “brief” and “do not necessarily represent what is ultimately or broadly provided to customers.” He also said that the ad was no longer running.
Can Microsoft's Bing Chat AI Search be Trusted?
It is really worth iterating what a poor move this was from Microsoft. The reason users access a search engine is to find information. While the results the engine surface can be incorrect, the user at least expects that the search engine is delivering legitimate results that are based specifically on the query given.
Bing Chat has now been found to not be doing this fundamental search promise. Or, more accurately, Microsoft has shown that it is willing to essentially cheat users and not give them search results related to their query. Now, Bing Chat is an AI that has learned to respond in certain ways, so does that means the AI is trained to surface incorrect or sales information?
Probably not because the situation found by The Verge seems to be a canned response that Microsoft has programmed on top of the chatbot. The company was faking the response, making it seem like it came from Bing Chat, so the user would not really be seeing a legitimate search result at all.
Microsoft Keeps Pushing its Products on Users
However, this is not the first time that Microsoft has tried to interfere with Chrome searches on Edge. In February, the company pushed out full-sized ads for Edge when users tried to download Chrome on Edge. Microsoft has also made Bing the default search engine for some Office 365 ProPlus subscribers using Chrome, but this can be disabled.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has said that he wants Edge to compete by serving user needs and providing better answers with Bing's AI models. However, by faking an AI chatbot answer and misleading users who search for Chrome, Microsoft may have undermined its own credibility and trustworthiness.
Bing Chat has been a success, but it is not clear that it has moved the needle for Bing to overtake Google as the dominant search player. According to a previous Statcounter report, Bing only managed to secure 7.14% of the desktop search market in April, while Google remained the undisputed leader with 86.71%. This might seem irrelevant since Google has always been the top choice for most users. However, Bing Chat was supposed to be a game-changer and lure more people to Microsoft.
But despite Microsoft's claim that Bing has over 100 million daily active users, the search engine is losing ground in the market. Bing Chat, the feature that allows you to chat with an AI bot, has not made Bing more appealing. Statcounter shows that Bing's peak market share was 9.92% in October 2022, before Bing Chat was introduced.
However, in April 2023, Bing's market share dropped to 7.14%, which is lower than the same month last year, when it had 8.05%. The situation is even worse when mobile and all devices are included. Bing has only 2.79% of the total market share, while Google is still dominating with 92.63%.