Alternative facts? Google denies rushing out Bard at trial


I was incredibly surprised to see the headline Google VP Says Bard Chatbot Wasn’t Rushed Out to Beat Microsoft on Bloomberg (warning: paywalled).

That Google VP is Elizabeth Reid, the vice president and GM of Search. She spoke yesterday at the ongoing U.S. vs. Google antitrust hearing.

Why we care. If Google fails to recognize what it looked like from everyone watching, they are essentially living in the land of alternative facts. Which, in case you forgot, are called lies. For a company that preaches about how “trustworthiness” is the most important part of E-E-A-T, they really ought to demonstrate some.

The AI Search race. February was one of the most memorable times in all of Search. I remember it well.

Perhaps the worst-kept secret then was that Microsoft Bing was about to announce a new AI-powered version of Bing, powered by OpenAI’s technology that was powering the hottest new thing in the world – ChatGPT. We first reported on this Jan. 4 in Microsoft to add ChatGPT features to Bing Search.

Search Engine Land’s Barry Schwartz was invited by Microsoft on Thursday, Feb. 2 to an exclusive briefing scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 7 in Redmond, Wash. The invite even said there were no plans to livestream this event – though that quickly evolved into a special press event.

Why? Google, that’s why. Suddenly, Google has huge embargoed news to share. That news – the announcement of Google’s ChatGPT competitor, an experiment called Bard – went live on Monday, Feb. 6, less than 24 hours before Microsoft’s event.

Press coverage called Google’s news a rushed announcement because it clearly was. Google, at this point, had no product to share. Bard was vaporware, supposedly being released to “trusted testers.”

Google Bard fumbles early. Google then held a public demonstration in which Bard got the first answer wrong about NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope – an early warning of hallucinations that LLMs produce. Alphabet paid a big price, losing $100 billion in market value.

Google disagrees. Reid testified that Bard wasn’t rushed out because Microsoft was planning to announce its generative AI take on search.

  • “I don’t think you can make that conclusion. Microsoft’s announcement also had several errors in it. The technology is very nascent. It makes mistakes. That’s why we’ve been hesitant to put it forward,” Reid said.

Yes, so hesitant, that Google rushed to upstage Microsoft with its Bard news, less than a day before its biggest Search announcement in years.

You buying this? Because I sure ain’t.



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