Microsoft could suffocate the AI chatbot revolution before it begins

Bing vs Bard
(Image credit: Shutterstock/Rokas Tenys)

Between chasing down an Activision acquisition, pulling the PS5 version of Redfall, and now seemingly threatening to revoke Bing indexing licensing if the internet search data is used in other ‘AI’ chatbots, Microsoft is really looking like a company that doesn’t want to share its toys. 

At least that’s going by a Bloomberg report that says Microsoft has threatened to cut off access to Bing search data — commonly used by companies that offer some form of web search tools — if they keep using the data as the foundation for their own chatbots. Microsoft has reportedly already warned two companies that doing this breaches the terms of agreements Microsoft has with them. 

‘Who cares?’ you may ask, ‘we already have ChatGPT and Google Bard — who needs more chatbots?’ 

Well, this could be a big deal as Microsoft's reported move could stymie AI chatbot development. With no treasure trove of data to train an AI model on, a chatbot can become pretty useless, answering all but the basic questions badly or getting things completely wrong. 

We could see this potential AI chatbot revolution killed before it begins to bloom into something special or threatening (to the jobs of certain individuals, not their lives; we’ve not reached Skynet AI levels yet). Without having smaller players in the chatbot mix, we could end up with AI models and systems that have limited scope or fail to perform their core duties. 

AI antagonist 

If such moves are indeed happening at Microsoft, not only could it see a cooling in AI chatbot development, which is really just about getting smart, coherent answers to queries than creating the beginnings of true artificial intelligence, but it would seemingly fly in the face of OpenAI’s objectives. 

OpenAI may indeed have a for-profit arm, but its core goal is to ensure that friendly AIs are developed that help aid humanity. As it stands, at least from a certain perspective, OpenAI baby ChatGPT looks more like a tool to help Microsoft make money and bring back some wider relevance to Bing, rather than the panacea to dull tasks you’d rather give to a robot or some smart software. 

And beyond Bing, the only other real company that has indexed the internet is Google, which isn’t likely to be keen on sharing its data given it has its own AI chatbot in the form of Google Bard. Furthermore, indexing the whole web is a hard and costly process, meaning it’ll be very unlikely that a third contender will enter the fray for would-be chatbot makers to turn to. 

We’ll need to sit tight to see if this is indeed the case with Microsoft and if it could put a stop to the AI chatbot revolution before it’s properly begun. Time and Microsoft will tell; so far we’ve seen no comment from the Redmond tech giant. 

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Roland Moore-Colyer

Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.