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Google Search may no longer be entirely free

The company is considering a paid subscription for advanced AI-powered search features.
By

Published onApril 3, 2024

Google Search on smartphone stock photo (3)
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority
TL;DR
  • Google is reportedly exploring ways to offer AI-powered Search features for a fee, potentially within existing subscriptions.
  • The traditional ad-supported Google Search would remain available for free.

Google, the tech giant synonymous with online search, could be considering a radical change to its business model. According to a Financial Times report, the company is exploring ways to offer premium, AI-powered features within its core search product for a fee.

According to the report, sources familiar with Google’s plans suggest these advanced AI-powered search features could become part of Google’s existing subscription services like Gemini Advanced or Google One. Notably, the report indicates that even the premium tier of Google Search will continue to include ads, while the traditional version will remain free to use.

This potential shake-up seemingly stems from Google’s need to balance two priorities: integrating cutting-edge AI into its search experience while safeguarding the lucrative search advertising that forms its financial backbone. The company’s staggering $175 billion in search-related ad revenue last year underscores the stakes involved. Meanwhile, the meteoric rise of OpenAI’s ChatGPT has pushed Google into a race for AI dominance.

Would you pay for AI-powered Google searches?

7410 votes

Google began testing its AI-powered search service, known as the Search Generative Experience (SGE), in May of last year. SGE offers AI-powered summaries and responses to queries, along with the traditional presentation of links and advertising. The SGE experience has been purely opt-in until recently, when Google started testing it as a default experience for a limited set of users. However, the company has been slow to incorporate these SGE features into its main search engine, likely due to the high computational costs associated with generative AI models.

While SGE offers potential user benefits, it simultaneously challenges the foundation of Google’s current business model. The ability of AI to provide comprehensive answers could lead to a decline in user clicks on website links, resulting in fewer ad impressions and potentially jeopardizing Google’s primary revenue stream.

The report further claims that Google’s engineers are already developing this technology, but a conclusive decision and a launch timeline remain uncertain. Will you pay for a better Google Search experience? Let us know in the comments below.

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