On Friday a new search engine was launched incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) technology.
YouChat, dubbed “the AI search engine you control,” combines a conventional search engine and a large language model (LLM) AI into a single user interface. YouChat arrives just weeks after the launch of its rival AI ChatGPT, signaling an arms race of competing artificial intelligences that could ultimately upend the Google empire.
YouChat is the latest LLM to hit the market as artificial intelligence systems are proving hugely popular with the public. ChatGPT has already shown to be adept at a wide array of written tasks including generating code, writing poetry and building a marketing strategy while DALL-E and MidJourney have demonstrated themselves highly capable at creating imagery.
Taking to Twitter on Friday, CEO Richard Socher described the system as having, “similar capabilities as #chatGPT but advances the AI field of large language models by incorporating the you search and app platform.”
That is to say that YouChat is slightly different to pre-existing AIs. The homepage presents itself almost exactly like Google, but with the addition of three tabs immediately visible at the top of the screen: “YouCode,” “YouWrite,” and “YouImagine.” There are also study, social, map and shop tabs available as you begin to delver deeper.
While YouCode and YouWrite cover the same territory as ChatGPT, offering coding and writing help respectively, YouImagine creates AI-generated art in the vein of MidJourney.
According to Socher, YouChat can also search for academic research and provide citations where necessary. In theory, YouChat is ChatGPT, MidJourney and Google combined.
Rushing into chatbot battle
If the launch of YouChat so swiftly on the heels of ChatGPT suggests a rush to launch, some early bugs with the platform may provide supporting evidence. On Christmas Eve the site was quickly overwhelmed by traffic and went down. When YouChat was online, some of its answers seemed suspect to prompters.
It appears that much like ChatGPT, users would be foolhardy to believe everything that YouChat says.
Even Socher admits, “While youChat will be more often up-to-date and truthful than other large language models, it still makes mistakes,” before adding that, “we’re releasing this in beta. We hope that having citations, apps and web links alongside chat will enable users to verify facts easily.”
One of the headline features of YouChat is its ability to provide citations to papers. A number of users report that many of these papers are bogus.
As one Twitter user said, “It is a great tool but still have the same problem as #ChatGPT. It hallucinates references.”
Another said, “It very confidently gives non-existent references to believable sounding papers. This can potentially make debunking misinformation harder for casual users as the references seem legit.”
Despite these initial problems Socher claims that YouChat can, “completely change how people think about search engines in 2023.”
Has Google’s biggest threat arrived?
The emergence of competing AIs creates the most existential threat to Google’s hegemony in the past 20 years and Google is more than aware of the threat. As The New York Times reported last week, ChatGPT caused Google management to declare “code red,” and to pull the metaphorical fire alarm.
On its own ChatGPT threatened to reinvent the way users think and search for information. The launch of YouChat so swiftly on the heels of ChatGPT will not have made Google’s c-level executives feel any less panicked.