Google considers subscription fees for its AI-powered search engine

AI could bring fundamental change to Google and their Search Engine empire

AI is expensive. While AI promises to deliver great things, it remains to be seen how AI will generate a profit for existing computational giants. Google are working on an AI-powered search engine; but how will Google profit from it? After all, AI requires a lot more computational horsepower than traditional search. Beyond that, the latest AI chips are extremely expensive.

A report from the Financial Times has claimed that Google are considering a paywall for its AI-powered search engine. Traditional search will remain free to use, but the benefits of AI may be placed behind a subscription fee. This creates a space for competitors like Bing to jump in with free AI access, but keeps Google’s traditional search engine model intact.

Why are Google considering fees for its AI search engine? The answers are simple, costs and ads. When you use a generative AI model, it takes time for an AI to respond to your query. During that time some of the most powerful processors available are working hard to create an answer for users. Those processes consume a lot of power, and AI processors are expensive. Add on the costs of creating a generative AI language model, and that’s a lot of expense.

Another factor is how ads will work with AI-based search engines. Today, Google generates a lot of money from ads on its search engine. Users type something into their search bar, and Google finds what you are looking for and shows you links. At the top of Google’s list will be an advertisement, which will likely come in the form of a link that somewhat matches your query. If generative AI is responding to you query, how do traditional ad links fit into that? Generative AI responds to queries by gathering and summarising the information that is available to it. With this in mind, AI has the potential to break Google’s search engine monetisation strategy.

(Google Search should remain free, but search with AI will cost you)

A potential future for Google and their AI search engine

What has been suggested is a potential two-tier search system for Google. There will be a free option that essentially gives users today’s search functions. Free users will not have access to Google’s AI tools. This means that Google can maintain their current ad supported revenue model for their search engine. Paid-tier users will have access to Google’s AI search features. This is similar to how Gmail and Docs users can subscribe to access the Gemini AI model from Google.

While basic search functions should remain free for users, Google’s potential paid-for AI services could break their stranglehold on the search engine market. If a competitor offers users AI functions for free, they could gain considerable market share from Google. That said, offering AI functions for free is an expensive proposition for Google’s smaller rivals.

You can join the discussion on Google potentially charging users for its AI search engine on the OC3D Forums.

Mark Campbell

Mark Campbell

A Northern Irish father, husband, and techie that works to turn tea and coffee into articles when he isn’t painting his extensive minis collection or using things to make other things.

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