Could ChatGPT challenge Google? Morgan Stanley says the search giant has nothing to worry about.

  • When ChatGPT went viral, people began using it as an alternative to Google Searches.
  • Investors started seeing a world where generative AI would disrupt Google by taking some search traffic away.
  • But Google has a first mover advantage and also heavily invests in AI — challenging it will be difficult.

ChatGPT, the viral internet AI chatbot, has brought the world of artificial intelligence closer to more than a million people since it launched.

As ChatGPT’s potential became clear, some began thinking of what legacy technology companies it could disrupt. One possibility being floated: Google’s search engine. 

People have been using ChatGPT not just to cheat on homework or figure out the best burger recipe, but also to ask questions they’d usually ask Google. ChatGPT still has a long way to go — it does not have direct access to search engines, it confidently gives incorrect information, and it struggles with math. But its ability to understand questions and follow-ups makes it like a version of Ask Jeeves that never stopped improving.

In a recent analyst note, Morgan Stanley analyst Brian Nowak pointed out that while Google will face threats from new emerging services like ChatGPT, Google still has a stronghold in the space as it has billions of users.

Morgan Stanley says the pessimistic case for Google is natural language search models like ChatGPT could swipe users that would otherwise use Google to find information. “We are not dismissive of threats from new, unique consumer offerings,” wrote Nowak, but says Google is still essentially the entry point for most internet users.

ChatGPT has a lot of catching up to meet the same number of users Google gets in a day. Google sees an estimated 4 billion daily users and answers billions more search queries. ChatGPT operator OpenAI said it got 1 million users in one week since launching. Morgan Stanley said disruptors have to offer solutions ten times better than even the second-best tool in order to get users to abandon something like Google. Right now, ChatGPT isn’t there.

There are some areas where ChatGPT could challenge Google’s dominance. Providing travel recommendations, which isn’t a simple search query and involves a little bit more creativity on the part of the software, is one example.

But Google invests heavily in AI and machine learning. Morgan Stanley said the company is considered the leading tech giant in research and investment into the space, which will not change. It may even challenge a lot of what ChatGPT can do.

Google spent $100 billion in the past three years on AI and machine learning research and development. The company’s R&D spending is expected to grow 13% annually until 2025. It’s building natural language models like LaMDA and invested in a machine learning program called BERT that helps machines better understand the context of conversations. It also launched a project that teaches computer code to write, fix and update itself, which could reduce the number of engineers Google will hire.

It’s even developing projects that are a lot like ChatGPT. For example, DeepMind, a Google-owned AI research lab, announced a new app called Dramatron that generates film scripts.

What is becoming clear, Morgan Stanley said, is that the interest in ChatGPT will attract more money into AI. Companies that have been working with the technology for years, and have the capital to continue putting money into it, like Google, have an advantage as AI continues to evolve.