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It looks like OpenAI is about to make Google’s worst nightmare come true

Updated May 7th, 2024 10:21PM EDT
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman
Image: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

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One of the most intriguing rumors surrounding ChatGPT maker OpenAI now appears all but confirmed: The company is reportedly prepping a web search product, one that will both operate inside its popular chatbot and put the company into direct competition with Google.

Chatter along these lines began to pick up considerably in recent days, to the point that many are expecting OpenAI to announce its own search engine just before the opening of Google’s annual developer conference. Bloomberg has now confirmed that an OpenAI search product is definitely in the works — which, needless to say, is big news for so many reasons.

First and foremost, Google still enjoys monopolist control of Internet search. Google Search has decayed considerably, however, and AI-based search engines like Perplexity have sprung up in response. That’s because when you use Google to search for pretty much anything these days, the thing you’re actually looking for is quite often buried under a laundry list of ads, Related Search results, a People Also Ask widget, Reddit forums, Reddit links directly in Google Search, Quora forums, and more.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai
Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, attends a press event to announce Google as the new official partner of the Women’s National Team at Google Berlin. Image source: Christoph Soeder/dpa

As far as what OpenAI is doing on this front, the clues that something new is coming have been stacking up at a pretty rapid clip lately. For one thing, recent SSL certificate logs reveal that OpenAI has secured the domain “” OpenAI also already has a web crawler, and Microsoft’s Bing uses a customized version of GPT-4 for search.

Likewise, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman hasn’t exactly been hiding that some sort of Google Search rival might be in the works. “The intersection of LLMs plus search, I don’t think anyone has cracked the code on yet,” Altman told Lex Friedman during a recent appearance on the latter’s podcast. “I would love to go do that. I think that would be cool.”

During that same podcast interview, Altman also took a few potshots at Google (but you really had to listen for them): “If the question is (whether) we can build a better search engine than Google or whatever, then sure, we should.

“Google shows you, like, 10 blue links — like, 13 ads and then 10 blue links — and that’s, like, 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 a much better way to help people find, act on, and synthesize information.”

In hindsight, maybe Google laying off a bunch of core employees and hiring cheaper workers in India wasn’t the best response to the strong growth in quarterly profit that the company reported a few days ago (enough to push the market cap of parentco Alphabet above the $2 trillion mark). Also, maybe it’s just me, but Google would have probably been better prepared to meet this moment were its workforce not loaded with activists who think every day is Bring Your Ideology to Work Day.

I don’t see how you can come to any other conclusion about Google other than that it’s another once-great tech company, hollowed out by the vultures of the manager class. In fact, what OpenAI is preparing to do to Google has reminded me of a documentary that I watched just the other day.

It’s called The Gatekeepers, from 2012, and it features interviews with every surviving former head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service. Stick with me here, because my point is relevant to the OpenAI/Google news.

There’s a moment in the documentary when former Shin Bet director Ami Ayalon is recounting a conversation with a detainee. The detainee’s cause is hopeless, yet he remains defiant. When Ayalon more or less tells him that his victory is impossible, the detainee scoffs: “Victory is seeing you suffer.”

I know it probably sounds melodramatic to say, but that’s exactly how I feel about Google right now, in light of what’s coming. Nothing is guaranteed, of course, and it may well be that this shift in the online search market actually has a net negative effect down the line on people like me — that is, on people who make our living by publishing on the web. As long as OpenAI takes Google down a peg, though, that’s a win. This vampire squid of a company has gotten away with too much, for too long.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.