OpenAI is developing a feature for ChatGPT to search the web and cite sources, potentially competing with Google and Perplexity. (unsplash)News 

OpenAI is preparing a search product to compete with Google, called Perplexity.

According to a source familiar with the matter, OpenAI is working on a new feature for ChatGPT that will allow it to search the internet and provide citations for its results. This move could potentially put OpenAI in direct competition with Google and the AI search startup Perplexity, owned by Alphabet Inc.

The feature allows users to ask ChatGPT a question and get answers that use information from the web and cite sources such as Wikipedia articles and blog posts, according to the person, who asked to remain anonymous to discuss private information. One version of the product also uses images and written answers to questions when relevant. If a user asked ChatGPT about something like replacing a doorknob, the results might include a diagram describing the task, the person said.

In February, The Information reported on a search product under development. Information on how the product might work has not been previously reported. OpenAI declined to comment.

OpenAI is under immense pressure to expand the capabilities of its best-known product as chatbots are displaced by a growing list of competitors — and search has proven to be the AI industry’s main interest. Perplexity has gained popularity—and a billion-dollar valuation—by offering an AI-powered search engine that emphasizes accuracy and citations. Google has also been working to rethink its core search experience around artificial intelligence, and is expected to reveal the latest plans for its Gemini AI models at its annual I/O event next week.

There has been a lot of speculation on social media about OpenAI’s application plans. Some users of X, formerly known as Twitter, recently pointed out the existence of the web page as an indication that the search feature might come from OpenAI. Visitors to the URL see a “not found” message in small print on the page, but over the weekend it was briefly redirected to, the official website where users can interact with the chatbot.

Such a feature would extend what OpenAI currently offers to some users. ChatGPT can automatically fetch search results from the web for specific queries — like the current weather in San Francisco — but the feature is currently limited to those who pay for the chatbot. In some cases, this option also offers quotes. But the product may have a hiccup: When asked Sunday, “What did President Biden do this weekend?” it said it was in Delaware. Although it was true, it quoted a news story from 2023.

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