Move over Google, LLMs are taking over!

When Google was founded in 1998, it ushered in a new era of access to information. The groundbreaking search engine wasn’t the first to debut (that was World Wide Web Wanderer in 1993), but it was the one that caught on. By 2004, Google was fielding over 200 million searches per day; by 2011, that number had exploded to about three billion daily searches. By that time, the word “Google” had morphed from just the name of the search engine to a verb that meant “to use an internet search engine.” Twenty years later, Google still dominates the market with an almost 84 percent share as of late 2023.

Though Google is still the most popular search engine, new technology has emerged that could threaten its supremacy -- LLMs. The use of this technology is growing at an astonishing rate. In fact, in February 2024, ChatGPT generated over 1.6 billion visits.

The rapid rise of large language models like ChatGPT and Claude poses an existential threat to Google's dominance in web search and its core business model. These AI assistants provide a more efficient and contextualized way for users to access information and solve problems, diminishing the need for traditional keyword-based searches and web browsing. Google has recognized this shift and recently rolled out AI-powered search summaries that give an overview of the topic being searched.

A new era of Internet searches

Searching the internet with Google hinges on using the right keywords, and that works very well if you can describe what you’re looking for in a few words. But sometimes keywords just don’t cut it, especially if you’re looking for answers, not just a list of resources, or you have a research subject with a lot of nuances. LLMs, on the other hand, can take research to the next level because you don’t have to use them like a keyword-reliant search engine. For example, when you pose a query to ChatGPT, you can ask full-sentence questions and provide contextual information. The LLM then synthesizes and summarizes the information it has access to in order to provide an answer.

Think of it like this: If you were trying to explain a problem to an experienced engineer, you’d outline the problem you were trying to solve, list the tools you’re using and explain your thought process and approach. This information would help the engineer see your understanding of the issue and suggest appropriate solutions. Similarly, if you provide ChatGPT with that same information, it can respond almost like a human in just seconds with solutions that would have taken you days of Googling to get to. It can take the pieces of information you’ve provided it with and put them together in ways you may not have considered.

It’s a better version of a search engine, and I think the quality of its outputs is indicative of a sea change -- the search engine is on its way out. A word of caution, however: It's crucial to remember that LLMs require human oversight to ensure factual accuracy and mitigate potential biases. LLMs have the potential to get facts wrong or hallucinate answers that are completely fabricated.

Even if you’re still just iterating on what your issue is, LLMs can help in a way that traditional Google searches just can’t. ChatGPT facilitates problem-solving by outlining avenues where you can dig a little deeper into your problem. Since you can converse with an LLM almost like you can with a person, that more natural flow can help spark innovative ideas that Googling alone would never get to.

Imagine going to a coffee shop to chat with an expert in your domain -- by having thoughtful conversations, you can come up with new ideas that may not immediately solve the problem at hand, but will put you on the right path to creating a really good solution. A thoughtful conversation with an LLM can help steer you in that direction as well.

LLMs are undoubtedly revolutionizing the way we search the internet. Their ability to understand intent and deliver comprehensive solutions surpasses traditional keyword-based engines.

The future of search lies in a powerful partnership between LLMs and human intelligence, combining the unmatched processing power of LLMs with the critical thinking and ethical grounding of humans. This transformative technology is paving the way for a new chapter of discovery and understanding by revolutionizing how we access and utilize the almost endless information on the Internet.

Todd Fisher is co-founder and CEO of CallTrackingMetrics. Todd founded the business in 2012 with his wife, Laure, in their basement and together have grown it into an Inc. 500-rated,top-ranked call management platform serving over 30,000 businesses around the world. Todd developed the initial software and as the CEO he continues to be the driving technical force of the company. Prior to CallTrackingMetrics, Todd co-founded SimoSoftware before selling it to RevolutionHealth in 2005. In 2009, Todd helped co-found Captico LLC, providing online software solutions for small businesses looking to accelerate their marketing and online presence.

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