Google Plans to Charge Users for AI Search

Google Plans to Charge Users for AI Search

Google plans to start charging for AI-powered search features, as part of proposals to monetize its AI tools, marking a major shift from the company’s decades long ad-driven revenue model. 

One proposal, as first reported by the Financial Times, would see Google offer its latest artificial intelligence search feature, which is still in beta, to existing users of its premium subscription services.

Users of the tech company’s Gemini AI assistant in Gmail, Docs, or other Google services, already have to sign-up for the Google One AI Premium subscription, which costs $20 per month.

Also read: Google Cracks Down on Spam and AI in Search Results 

Recouping AI training costs

According to the FT report, Google’s new search experience uses generative AI to “respond to queries directly with a single answer,” similar to what you get when conversing with say ChatGPT or other rivals like Gemini.

The tool is currently in beta testing for a limited number of users. In its responses, Google’s search AI chatbot also includes links to sources, while regular search results for the same query will show below its replies, according to people who have tested the service.

The feature did not require people to log-in to an external app, the testers said, making it more friendly to the everyday Google search user. Analysts say Google’s monetization move may be motivated by the need to recoup costs incurred when training AI models.

“AI search is more expensive to compute than Google’s traditional search processes,” Heather Dawe, chief data scientist at the digital transformation consultancy UST, told The Guardian.

“So in charging for AI search, Google will be seeking to at least recoup these costs.”

The high cost of training advanced AI models is a major worry for developers within the industry. In 2023, Amazon spent around $65 million on a single training run, according to software engineer James Hamilton. He expects that figure to reach $1 billion soon.

A week ago, OpenAI and Microsoft revealed plans to build a $100 billion datacenter for AI training dubbed ‘Stargate,’ The Information reported. Meanwhile, in January, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said his company plans to spend $9 billion just on Nvidia GPUs alone.

Google Plans to Charge Users for AI Search

Paid search

Google has made several changes to its Search engine in recent months. In October, the Mountain View, California-based company said users of its AI-powered Search Generative Experience (SGE) can now generate images directly from the search bar.

Users that have opted in to SGE via Google’s Search Labs program can type a query into the Google search bar, and the engine will create four picture options from which to choose and refine further.

And in January, Google released a new AI-based Android feature called “circle to search,” which allows users to search anything on their mobile phone by simply circling or highlighting it without switching between applications.

The company also recently rolled out key policy changes to its ranking systems in search as part of an effort to combat spam, manipulation, and low-quality AI-generated content. The idea is to help people see information that executives say is more “useful” for them and “fewer results that feel made for search engines.”

It is not only Google charging for AI search features. AI-powered search engine Perplexity does not run ads but offers a ‘Pro’ tier for $20 per month, giving users access to more powerful AI models and unlimited use. And so does’s AI search engine.

Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney, Unsplash.