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Google Considers Charging Users for AI Searches

by Janes

Google may start charging to give you access to advanced (premium) features of its generative tools. If this possibility is confirmed, searches based on artificial intelligence (AI) will require a periodic subscription, depending on the type of result expected by the user.

The information comes from the Financial Times, which claims to have discovered the plan from three people close to Google. The proposal is astonishing. Charging for advanced features is not a new approach for the company. But if the plan goes ahead, it will be the first time Google has charged to display search results.

According to the plan, the idea is to make conventional search free for all users. The subscription would now be required for certain levels of generative AI-based research. Despite the payment, these results would still be presented along with advertisements.

Reason for billing: Generative AI costs
The likely reason for the plan to charge for generative AI capabilities is the cost that this type of application has. It is estimated that a Gemini-based search costs about ten times more for Google than a conventional search on the search engine.

This is because performing tasks via artificial intelligence is more complex, requiring more processing resources and energy.

Charging for results based on generative AI, at least for those that are more complex, would be a way to reduce such costs or, when there is a balance in this regard, make Google have a new source of revenue.

Decision to charge has not been confirmed (yet)
Google has not confirmed whether it intends to execute this plan, which is why the values of the supposed premium features in searches are not yet known.

This hesitation, so to speak, makes sense when we take into account that the success of a subscription model for generative AI searches will depend on users’ perception of cost-effectiveness.

A potential subscriber may give up on the idea when they find out that even if they pay, they will see ads in the results. In addition, it is to be assumed that those who pay expect more accurate results, which is still a challenge for generative AI.

The Financial Times also highlights analysts’ warning to Google that if the search engine offers AI-based results that don’t require users to go to external pages to get the information they’re looking for, the company could suffer a negative impact on its core business: online advertising.

This last aspect is a paradox. While AI-generated results could hurt ad networks, the subscription model could offset Google’s revenue losses in this sector. But that’s only if there is significant buy-in to the proposal.

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