Can This A.I.-Powered Search Engine Replace Google? It Has for Me.

A start-up called Perplexity is gaining attention as a potential challenger to Google's dominance in the search engine market. Perplexity uses artificial intelligence to provide summarized answers to search queries, offering a different approach to traditional search engines. While Perplexity is not perfect, it has impressed users with its accuracy and helpful features. However, it still has a long way to go before it can truly compete with Google in terms of size, business model, and product offerings. The rise of A.I.-powered search engines raises concerns about the future of digital publishers and the impact on the media industry.


Where it shines

Perplexity, an A.I.-powered search engine, is gaining attention for its unique approach to search. Instead of providing a list of links, Perplexity uses artificial intelligence to generate summarized answers to queries. These answers are annotated with links to the sources the A.I. used, allowing users to verify the information.

Perplexity offers useful features, such as Copilot, which helps users narrow down their queries by asking clarifying questions. It also allows users to search within specific sets of sources, such as academic papers or YouTube videos. These features enhance the search experience and provide relevant information to users.

Under the hood, Perplexity runs on advanced A.I. models like OpenAI's GPT-3.5 and its own A.I. model based on Meta's Llama 2. This combination of models helps Perplexity deliver accurate and informative responses to a variety of search queries.

Where Google still reigns

While Perplexity offers a compelling alternative to Google, there are still areas where Google excels. Google's integration with products like Google Maps and its vast user base give it an advantage in providing location-based services and reach. Furthermore, Google's extensive ecosystem of products and services, such as Gmail and Google Docs, contributes to its dominance in the search market.

Perplexity's size and business model are also potential limitations. With just 41 employees and fewer than 100,000 paying users, Perplexity has a long way to go before it can rival Google's billions of users and its advertising-driven business model. However, Perplexity's CEO believes that its focused approach and innovative features can give it an edge against Google.

Perplexity still faces challenges with accuracy and source attribution. While its A.I.-generated responses are generally accurate, there are instances where the system makes errors or strays from the source material. Google, as a more established search engine, has built a reputation for accuracy that Perplexity has yet to match.

A win for users, a loss for publishers

The rise of A.I.-powered search engines like Perplexity raises concerns for digital publishers. With the ability to generate summarized answers and present information without the need to visit a website, A.I. search engines threaten to disrupt the flow of traffic and ad revenue that publishers rely on. This has implications for the sustainability of the digital media industry.

Publishers are worried about losing control over their content and losing out on website visits. They fear that if A.I. search engines can provide reliable summaries and recommendations, users may no longer feel the need to visit publishers' websites directly.

Perplexity's CEO argues that while it may send less traffic to websites, the traffic that remains would be of higher quality and more likely to result in monetization opportunities. However, the future impact on writers, publishers, and the consumption of online media remains uncertain.