I thought long and hard about the title for this column because I know it will create some polarizing opinions. Still, I think it works.
By now, you’ve all seen and played with ChatGPT. The announcement from OpenAI resulted in the fastest adopted piece of software in history. It was a watershed moment in the history of technology and will have ramifications for years to come.
Microsoft knew this, which is why it made such a massive investment in OpenAI. Google knew it, which is why it quickly ramped up press initiatives around Bard and other AI alternatives Both of these companies knew immediately that ChatGPT and AI LLMs will revolutionize the way consumers access information on the web. The better the results, and the more conversational the delivery of those results in a pre-packaged response, the better the experience is for the user.
There is an unintended consequence though: consumers will no longer need to click on the search results to gather the information themselves because the AI will be doing it for them.
I predict, with back-of-the-napkin math, that we could see a decline of as much as 50% in click-through traffic from search results because of a ChatGPT interface.
In the current search paradigm, I input a query and the algorithm returns a list of sites for me to review. That model results in a lot of clicks to sites that drive traffic. In this new model, the AI does that work for me, and all I have to do is read it and determine if I want to dive deeper. Search-directed traffic drops, and even the revenue for Google and Microsoft from search clickthrough decreases, having a massive impact on the bottom line of these companies..
The web is not going away, but this paradigm shift is just the beginning of an entirely new way of using it. Wave 1 of the web was all about index sites. Wave 2 was all about search. Wave 3 was about omnichannel with the advent of mobile. Wave 4 will be about AI reshaping the way we interact with the web, decreasing our reliance on traditional models of search. Ai will kill the way we use the web today and will usher in a whole new way of engaging with technology.
The most logical next step integration is for the ChatGPT AI models to integrate with voice assistants, creating a true partnership between these two pieces of technology and the user on the other end. I actually see a world where we engage with the AI via voice, requesting it to send us notes via email, so we can review and digest at our leisure. AI may actually become a boon for email. Email is the tool that everyone predicts will go away, and it never does. It’s too useful and too easy to engage across the landscape of our devices.
AI is a massive step forward for how we use the web, but the next two years will see even more massive change as it weaves its way into how we use the web the most: search.