Much has been written about ChatGPT disrupting the digital world, yet few have described exactly how this scenario would unfold. Others, such as Yann LeCun, Meta’s head of A.I., counter that ChatGPT “is not particularly innovative,” that Meta & others also have such (unreleased) technology, and pointing out that in addition to producing excellent engagements, most of the time, ChatGPT can also produce wildly inaccurate information, albeit in a minority of cases. Given society’s level of mistrust, Meta & others can ill afford to disseminate disinformation, whereas the new kid on the block is less constrained.
In the Beginning, there was AltaVista
Around the turn of the millennium, humanity considered itself fortunate to be able to instantly find information, brought courtesy of AltaVista. Web pages were looked over by human editors whose ratings formed the critically important page rank or order in which web listings appeared.
Little did we know that two young Stanford PhD students, by the name of Segei Brin and Larry Page, were about to enable billions of web pages to be sorted by topic and ranked for relevance, without the need for human assessment, which had, by then, become impractical.
As with most scientific and technological shifts, their idea was a simple one and later formed the basis for Google’s search algorithm. Articles that had the most citations were considered the most important. On the worldwide web, a backlink is the equivalent of a citation. Furthermore, back links from important web pages (based on their own number and quality of citations), counted for more than back links from less important web pages. By January, 2001, Google had overtaken AltaVista for web searches, since the former’s algorithm provided far better results.
Advantages of ChatGPT for Searchers
But instead of merely obtaining an article about the topic of interest, how much more enriching the experience would be, to have a deep, iterative conversation about any topic? And, you would be speaking to the equivalent of the most knowledgeable, specialized expert on the planet, who also seemingly knows you, your interests and your level of expertise. This is why Google may fear history repeating itself and becoming AltaVista. That’s also why they brought Brin and Page back to work on search, to help to create their own, similar Chat technology, at lightning speed. If Google (Aphabet) loses the organic (unsponsored) search race, they also lose the sponsored listings that appear with the organic searches, spelling disaster for the company. That’s why Microsoft recently invested an eye-popping $10 billion in ChatGPT. Can anyone spell B-I-N-G, Google’s nearest competitor, owned by Microsoft.
A recent study concluded that 70% of ChatGPT’s answers to technical queries were better than Google’s, but that the remaining 30% were sometimes much further off the mark than Google’s.
An Advantage of ChatGPT for Businesses
Since search engines love fresh, authoritative content, why not use ChatGPT to write and format your own web pages and blogs for you, optimized for SEO, in a way that’s most pleasing to Google’s search ranking algorithms? That way, your web pages would rank higher, get more traffic and presumably benefit from more and better business! No doubt, Brin and Page will also be looking for ways of detecting pages built with this technology and punishing them as ‘black hat SEO’, meaning web pages built to game the system. It’s no fun being on page 53 of search.
Impact on Social Media and other Digital Platforms
Why waste time chatting with some random stranger, half way around the world, when you can chat with a digital entity that will tell you the things you need or wish to hear the most, based on a myriad of metrics about you and your friends and peers.
Buckle your seat belts. “The Only Constant Is Change”, which you’re experiencing at an ever-increasing rate. Time will reveal the winners and the losers.