Has ChatGPT launched its Search product in stealth?

ChatGPT can now search the web to find current information, recent events or detailed answers that aren't in its training data.

Chat with SearchBot

OpenAI didn’t launch its much-rumored ChatGPT Search product last week. Or did it?

Has OpenAI quietly launched an early version of ChatGPT Search, as part of the GPT-4o rollout?

ChatGPT (the free 4o version) now tells you the sites it is searching to provide its AI-generated answers and crawls and summarizes webpages. And the websites it lists aren’t hallucinations.

Searched sites. When you ask a question that requires current information, ChatGPT will tell you it is “Searching the web.” Once this part completes after a few seconds, ChatGPT tells you it “Searched X sites” and lists them.

Here’s a screenshot:

Chatgpt Searched Five Sites

OpenAI and Microsoft are partners. So based on this screenshot, OpenAI is likely using retrieval augmented generation (RAG) to rewrite the query and search on bing.com to find websites.

But remember – OpenAI also launched a web crawler, GPTBot, in August.

  • Side note: If you blocked ChatGPT and other AI companies over content theft concerns, you may want to reconsider that.

Dig deeper. Should you block ChatGPT’s web browser plugin from accessing your website?

Answers and sources. ChatGPT’s answer experience is much better – especially the prominent linking to sources – than what Google is now doing with its recently launched AI Overviews. In this screenshot, ChatGPT cites 9to5Google and Search Engine Land multiple times:

Chatgpt Search Product Citations

Browser. I asked ChatGPT whether it can search the web. I have no way to verify whether this is fact or hallucination, but here’s how ChatGPT responded:

  • “Yes, I can search the web using a tool called the browser. This allows me to find current information, recent events, or detailed answers that aren’t in my training data. If you need me to look up something specific, just let me know what you’re looking for!”
Chatgpt 4o Search Web

Summarizing content. ChatGPT is crawling links and summarizing the information from them. This was shared on X by Dave Davies, a Search Engine Land contributor and speaker at SMX Advanced:

Summarize Chatgpt

ChatGPT Search. As a reminder, don’t expect ChatGPT Search to look like Google Search. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has said Google is boring and the world doesn’t need another Google.

Dig deeper. Is ChatGPT the Google Search killer we’ve been expecting?

Why we care. OpenAI right now is in the underdog position Google once occupied and seems to be slowly and smartly developing a unique take on Search combined with large language models (LLMs). With negative sentiment around Google, OpenAI has a legitimate shot at making a run at Google – not by trying to emulate Google, but by changing the paradigm.

About the author

Danny Goodwin
Danny Goodwin has been Managing Editor of Search Engine Land & Search Marketing Expo - SMX since 2022. He joined Search Engine Land in 2022 as Senior Editor. In addition to reporting on the latest search marketing news, he manages Search Engine Land’s SME (Subject Matter Expert) program. He also helps program U.S. SMX events.

Goodwin has been editing and writing about the latest developments and trends in search and digital marketing since 2007. He previously was Executive Editor of Search Engine Journal (from 2017 to 2022), managing editor of Momentology (from 2014-2016) and editor of Search Engine Watch (from 2007 to 2014). He has spoken at many major search conferences and virtual events, and has been sourced for his expertise by a wide range of publications and podcasts.

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