Microsoft is preparing to unleash Bing AI on Chrome and Firefox browsers, as well as its own Edge web browser. Microsoft already offers Bing as the search engine for its Edge web browser, but it will also be available in other third-party web browsers as a standalone chatbot with a few tweaks to its AI algorithms and a new interface that will allow users to generate the content they need.
The company’s CEO Satya Nadella announced in February that the company was preparing to boost Bing’s competitiveness against web-search leader Google by introducing a chatbot that would answer questions and provide inspiration for tasks like creating a 5-day trip itinerary or writing an email, with links to book flights or hotel rooms. Microsoft has since added the new Bing to the sidebar of its Edge web browser, where it is currently positioned beside “Discover” and other AI features such as “Compose”.
Edge syncs with your Microsoft account, so using the chatbot requires signing in to access it through the browser. Edge is also the default web browser on Microsoft Surface laptops and tablets, but it has a relatively low market share compared to Chrome and Firefox.
Fortunately, there are workarounds in the form of unofficial extensions (clunky fudges, really) that allow people to use the chatbot without Edge. One example involves using the macOS automation program Automator to create a script that spoofs the user agent string of the browser, fooling the Bing AI chatbot into thinking they’re in Edge.
Another example is a Chrome extension called Bing Chat for All Browsers, which is a fairly straightforward extension that enables the user to sign in and then use the chatbot in other web browsers. The extension merely replaces the Microsoft Edge user agent string with a generic Chrome one, and it supposedly works as advertised.
A few weeks ago, Microsoft’s head of search Mikhail Parakhin shared some of the planned updates to Bing AI with a tweet that included the announcement about the chatbot coming to other browsers. He wrote that the June update will include a larger context window for Bing AI’s “balanced” mode, big improvements to its disengagement rate, especially in code generation and better performance with Bing Image Creator. He also indicated that the first experiments in enabling Bing AI in other browsers will occur soon.
The move puts Bing in a strong position to win a contract to become the default search engine for Mozilla’s Firefox web browser and Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices. The deal could give Microsoft a significant boost in search, as it tries to make up ground on Google. The Information reports that negotiations will likely start this year, with both sides aiming for the best possible outcome for them. Google, for its part, wants to retain the default search deal it’s currently got with Apple and Firefox. But with Microsoft bidding, both parties might be in a stronger negotiating position at the bargaining table.