Microsoft has no shame: Bing spat on my ‘Chrome’ search with a fake AI response

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It was time to download Google Chrome on a new Windows 11 computer.

I typed “Chromein the Microsoft Edge search bar.

I was greeted with a full screen Microsoft Bing AI chatbot window, which immediately told me it was looking for… Bing features.

Search query: “Chrome.” Search result: “news articles about Bing features.”
Screenshot of Sean Hollister / The Verge

I picked my jaw off the floor and tried again. Same result every time.

Same exact text, at. Obviously this isn’t Microsoft’s GPT-4 powered chatbot at work – it’s a completely canned interaction. Here’s how much of my screen it took up and what it looks like zoomed in:

Any link to a search result is completely pushed off my screen by this canned ad copy.
Screenshot of Sean Hollister / The Verge

This supposed AI response even has a headline: “Bing: The Search Engine That Does More Than Just Search.”
Screenshot of Sean Hollister / The Verge

I get it working on another computer. Across the country, a colleague tells me he saw exactly the same thing when setting up his wife’s gaming laptop. Across the ocean, another colleague gets it on his mobile phone. It’s not universal, but it’s definitely not a small experiment in a single region either.

Maybe this doesn’t seem so bad to you. After all, I use Microsoft’s search engine in Microsoft’s browser on Microsoft’s operating system – why would Microsoft voluntarily match me with a competitor?

Let me put it another way: Microsoft just gave itself a full-screen ad in search results by faking an AI interaction. This “search result” abuses Microsoft’s own product instead of respecting users’ intent.

Yes, Microsoft has plugged Edge in before when you search for Chrome, but not this way. Let’s compare:

Image slider: drag to see before and after.

Even if you disagree with me that Microsoft is once again pushing its Edge where it doesn’t belong, moves like this make a mockery of the company’s AI ambitions.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella claims he wants Edge to really compete. “First, let’s build a product that’s competitive in the marketplace and actually meets users’ needs,” he told us in an interview in February, when my editor-in-chief Nilay Patel asked if the Bing AI browser integration was, in part, an attempt to “Chrome market share”.

“It’s not just a search engine; it’s an answering machine,” Nadella claimed earlier on the show, “because we’ve always had answers, but with these big models, the fidelity of the answers gets so much better.”

Would you call replacing a “Chrome” search with a “news articles about Bing features” search as “better”? I know where I end up.

But it’s important to both Microsoft and Google that their answers Are seen as “better” because they push aside the ten blue links that have dominated search for so long. We recently worried aloud about whether Google’s new Search Generative Experience would prioritize ads over actual answers, but it looks like we won’t have to wait to see how brazen these companies can get. Unless there is strong resistance, I would expect the ads to win when it is profitable or convenient.

When asked for comment, a spokesperson forwarded this generic statement from Jason Fischel, Microsoft product marketing director:

We often experiment with new features, UX and behaviors to test, learn and improve experiences for our customers. These tests are often brief and do not necessarily reflect what is ultimately or broadly offered to customers.

Shortly after we published this story with that comment, Fischel confirmed that Microsoft has pulled the plug on this particular idea. “The experience is no longer flying.” Sure, I don’t see it anymore.

Some open questions: did does this represent what Microsoft wants to offer customers? Would it have just been an “experiment” if I hadn’t pushed Microsoft to the point? And since we’ve personally seen this across the country and across an ocean, what’s the company’s definition of “by and large?” I’ve asked Microsoft a few such questions and I’ll update you when we get answers.

As we say every time Microsoft pulls this kind of shit, it’s a shame because Edge is really good. I had just started trying Microsoft’s browser again because I found Bing fascinating. Now Bing is the reason I’m boycotting Edge again.

Update, 9:59 PM ET: Added that Microsoft disabled this “experience” shortly after we published this story.