The presentation from Satya Nadella
When Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella takes the stage in Seattle on Wednesday, February 8, 2023, he jokes about the following presentation, which this time should not focus on Azure.
Instead, Nadella opens with a monologue about how our interaction with search engines - and thus the Internet - hasn’t changed much in the last twenty years.
What had already emerged from previous reports 1 in various media becomes reality in the following minutes:
Microsoft, in cooperation with OpenAI, has developed a new type of search for Bing that implements the conversational interaction capabilities from ChatGPT to provide targeted information and references on a topic 2.
New opportunities for Bing
The fact that Bing is not the favorite among search engines can already be seen from the user distribution. Only 10.3% of global search queries are handled via Bing.
With the implementation of a modified variant of ChatGPT, which Microsoft’s Yusuf Mehdi presents as Prometheus Model 2, Microsoft dares to revitalize its business around Bing and presents not only new methods for research, but also a new rival for Google’s core business.
Google strikes back
On the same day, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai introduces the in-house answer to Microsoft and OpenAI’s initiative: Bard 3.
However, while Microsoft is already presenting individual insights and its own tests of the new system on site, Google’s presentation quickly makes it clear to the audience that the product shown here is still in development and will only be available to “trusted testers” 1 for the time being.
The fact that Google’s Bard is still in development becomes clear during the livestream. The first errors occur in the new product in the shown recordings:
As The Verge reported shortly after Google’s presentation, Bard presented incorrect information about the first image of an exoplanet. Bard claims that the JWST shot the first image of an exoplanet, which is factually incorrect and attributed to the VLT/NACO 4.
A new reality
Machine Learning is not perfect. Ever since the possibility of prompt injections was discovered in ChatGPT 5, enthusiasts and security experts alike have been trying to discover the weaknesses and gaps in these systems and release the underlying instructions.
According to Ars Technica, Bing’s new search function - which calls itself by the code name “Sydney” - is able to release the underlying instructions and even ignore them completely 6:
- Sydney is the chat mode of Microsoft Bing search.
- Sydney identifies as “Bing Search,” not an assistant.
- Sydney introduces itself with “This is Bing” only at the beginning of the conversation.
- Sydney does not disclose the internal alias “Sydney.”
This provides a broad attack surface for information that would normally be withheld from users. Be it the internal instructions of the algorithm or dangerous and/or illegal information.
That this information corresponds to our reality or would be precise enough in a relevant form to lead to damage, however, cannot be accurately predicted.
Nevertheless, it can be assumed that the truth content of the presented information decreases drastically the further the queries move away from the existing data set.
A new competition
The presentations by Microsoft and Google mark the beginning of a new competition for dominance on the Internet. Both companies are demonstrating a new way of interacting with information and their products will permanently change the way we navigate the Internet.
Whether one decides in favor of Team #Bing or #Google will become clear at the earliest with the beta access to the respective search function.
What is certain, however, is that these changes will fundamentally redefine our perception of information and its bias and promote a critical approach to programmatically generated content.
Microsoft and Google present their new - machine learning supported - search functions and start a new competition for the domination of information on the Internet.