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Google Considers Charging for AI-Powered Search Results, New Report Says

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Google is considering charging for new premium artificial intelligence-powered search features, according to a Financial Times report that cites three people familiar with the matter. 

This includes looking at options such as adding certain AI-powered search features to its premium subscription services, which offer the company’s Gemini AI assistant in Gmail and Google Docs, the newspaper reported. Google’s free search engine would remain so, and ads would continue even for subscribers.

In response to an inquiry about the report, a Google spokesperson tells TIME in an email: “We’re not working on or considering an ad-free search experience. As we've done many times before, we'll continue to build new premium capabilities and services to enhance our subscription offerings across Google. We don't have anything to announce right now.”  

“For years, we’ve been reinventing search to help people access information in the way that’s most natural to them,” the statement also said. “With our generative AI experiments in search, we’ve already served billions of queries, and we're seeing positive search query growth in all of our major markets. We’re continuing to rapidly improve the product to serve new user needs.” 

The world’s leading search engine was initially launched in 1996, two years before Google was incorporated as a company, and since then has overtaken the market. However, the recent introduction of free AI chatbots—most prominent among them OpenAI’s ChatGPT, launched in 2022—has transformed the tech world.

Google introduced its own chatbot called Bard in March 2023, which it rebranded as Gemini while expanding the service’s capacities and introducing a subscription in February.  

Also last year, the company allowed search engine users to sign up to test AI-powered results that could present detailed answers to questions alongside web page links. Doing so takes more expensive technological capacity, plus the company generates advertising money through its current model that directs users to advertisers’ links, according to the Financial Times. 

The BBC reported on Thursday that Google had rolled out this AI-generated search feature—with longer answers alongside links and ads—in a trial for a small number of search engine users in the U.K.

In a statement emailed to TIME, a Google spokesperson said: “We’re starting to roll out a small test for AI overviews in search. We’re starting on a very limited percentage of search traffic in the U.S. and U.K. for a subset of queries. Since experimenting with generative AI in Search Labs last year with Search Generative Experience (SGE), people are finding it to be incredibly helpful, particularly for more complex queries, and have already issued billions of queries with SGE.”

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