What is Google's Bard and how is it different to ChatGPT?

Alphabet's AI answer to Microsoft is now open to a limited audience

The Google logo in Zurich. The search engine is often the first stop for people to gain access to news and is a powerful traffic generator for media sites. Reuters
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It took a little more than two months for ChatGPT to attract more than 100 million users and to wake a sleeping giant.

On Monday, Alphabet and Google chief executive Sundar Pichai announced in a blog post a new conversational artificial intelligence service called Bard.

With the announcement, the world's third-largest technology company by market capital is taking direct aim at its next largest rival, Microsoft, which has ploughed at least $11 billion into ChatGPT, the viral AI service created by the non-profit OpenAI.

The new tool from Google begs the question: how is it different from ChatGPT?

Bard's features

Bard is expected to render stories just like this one obsolete. This is, after all, a news article written to answer the questions readers most likely will search for on Google about Bard.

Perhaps you ran a Google search on “Bard ChatGPT” or “how is google new thing different ChatGPT”.

Hopefully, this story ranked near the top to answer these queries.

Writing this story is a way of generating traffic for The National while — in my defence — addressing a societal need of informing the public in an accurate and timely way.

It is a story optimised for search engines such as Google. The search engine is often the first stop for people to gain access to news these days and it is a powerful traffic generator for media sites.

I admit, I consulted with our dedicated search engine optimisation (SEO) editor before I even began writing to make sure we were producing a story that would show up in popular Google searches.

This sort of publishing gamesmanship drives much of the content produced online today.

With Bard, it appears those days may be numbered as Google's search engine changes to incorporate a new large language model (LLM).

The LLM will be capable of drawing on “information from the web to provide fresh, high-quality responses”, according to Mr Pichai. The screenshot below, from the blog post, illustrates how queries may be answered in a conversational, text-heavy way at the very top of Google Search results.

As technology writer Casey Newton put it in his Platformer newsletter: “Google’s blog post suggests that their SEO-bait posts are about to be downranked anyway, whether they are generated by an AI or not. Bard will soon be taking your questions first, and publishers’ answers — whether they are written by human, robot, or something else — can all fight for second place”.

Ranking first in Google Search is a big deal. Data from firstpage.com found that ranking No 1 means about 40 per cent of people will click on that link. This is more than double the click-rate for second and a fourfold increase from ranking third.

It appears Bard will replace this ranking altogether, putting itself first with a narrative-style answer.

How does Bard differ from ChatGPT?

Bard has the advantage in terms of reach, access to information and the types of media it offers.

ChatGPT is often over-capacity, sometimes plagiarises its answers and confidently flubs math problems. That is to say, it is flawed. But it is still capable of producing thoughtful, accurate answers to a wide variety of topics. Microsoft plans to integrate the product with its search engine Bing.

In terms of market share, Bing accounts for less than one in 10 online searches while Google captures more than 80 per cent of the search market.

While ChatGPT has more than 100 million users, Google dwarfs that with one billion daily active users.

In that way, Bard is different from ChatGPT in terms of its potential reach and the amount of real-time feedback such use will provide, which is one way of improving the tool.

Bard also uses a “lightweight” version of Google's Language Model for Dialogue Application (LaMDA) AI model, while OpenAI’s ChatGPT currently relies on GPT-3.5.

“This much-smaller model requires significantly less computing power, enabling us to scale to more users, allowing for more feedback," Mr Pichai wrote.

Google's AI tool has access to real-time information while ChatGPT relies on training on data that ends in 2021. Microsoft has said it plans to use GPT-4 for its Bing integration, which may bring the two products closer together in terms of data quality.

Bard will produce more than text. While details are still vague, it will eventually have a multimedia element, providing information “from language and images to videos and audio”.

Is it out yet?

Yes and no. The California-based company said it would give “trusted testers” access to the new service in the beginning and will make it available to the wider public “in the coming weeks”.

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Updated: February 07, 2023, 11:47 AM