The new Google search powered by next-gen AI may be subscription-only

Here's what you need to know about Google's next version of search, which could become part of its Google One premium product.
Written by Sabrina Ortiz, Editor
google Search AI screenshot

Google has built an empire based on its free search engine, which has dominated the market for decades. However, facing the imminent threat of new generative AI models stealing its business, the company is poised to shake up its entire business model.

On Wednesday, a Financial Times report, citing inside sources, revealed that Google is considering adding a paywall to access new premium generative AI features in its search engine. 

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Under this plan, the new AI-powered search features would be added to Google's premium subscription service, the Google One plan introduced in February. 

Engineers are working on the technology to deploy the model; however, Google executives have yet to decide when -- or even if -- the paywall will be introduced, according to sources. 

The Google One plan costs $20 per month and already gives users access to Gemini for Workspace, previously known as Duet AI, which infuses Google's AI assistance throughout its productivity apps, including Gmail, Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Meet.  

Other perks currently included in the AI Premium Plan include 2TB of storage, Google Photos editing features, 10% back in Google Store rewards, Google Meet premium video calling features, and Google Calendar enhanced appointment scheduling. 

Google's traditional search engine would continue to be free of charge and rely on ads for revenue. However, the potential introduction of a paid search tier is significant because it departs from Google's business model, which has kept its search engine entirely free since it launched over two decades ago. 

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Why start charging for search now? Deploying and maintaining generative AI features on its search engine is expensive, and the subscription fee could offset the cost. However, there's no guarantee that people would be interested in such an AI-assisted search service, especially with many free competitors on the market. 

Just this week, ChatGPT made it easier for users to access its free chatbot by doing away with logins. This means that users can now ask ChatGPT a question the same way they would ask Google -- simply by visiting the site and typing into the chatbot. 

Google continues to hold a key advantage: It doesn't have a knowledge cutoff, whereas ChatGPT does. However, if you want to learn more about any topic before January 2022, ChatGPT can be an enticing option as it will answer your question conversationally and  thoroughly, whereas Google will present you with a bunch of websites. 

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Also, Microsoft's Copilot is an even stronger alternative to Google as the chatbot can answer all search prompts conversationally, has access to the latest information with no knowledge cutoff, and remains free to access. 

Although there is a possibility of some of Google's AI-infused search features being behind a paywall soon, you can sign up for the Search Generative Experience (SGE) to experience Google's AI-infused search engine for free now. Visit Search Labs and log in with your Google account. 

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