Google May Charge for Some Search Results

John Lister's picture

Google is reportedly considering charging users to get AI-based search results. It would be the first time the company had a fee for using its search tools.

The plans were revealed by the Financial Times, which says it got details from "three people with knowledge of [Google's] plans." The technology for the charging is already in development and it's now simply a case of deciding whether to go ahead with the plan. (Source:

There's no suggestion whatsoever that Google will start charging for its core search engine results. Instead a subscription fee would apply to extra results powered by artificial intelligence. Based on recent experiments, the focus would likely be on directly answering the user's question rather than directing them to relevant websites.

Cost Factors

Two factors seem to be behind the plan. One is the sheer cost of AI technology, with estimates that Google may pay 10 times as much for processing such a query compared with an ordinary search. (Source:

The second is a fear that rival businesses could develop AI based tools that dramatically reduce the need for people to use search engines at all or to visit websites. In both those cases, Google's ad revenue could drop.

Whether users would be willing to pay for such a feature is questionable. Many may already be happy with ordinary search results to either answer a question or find a website and wouldn't see enough benefit from AI results to pay a fee.

Reliability Is Key

The AI results would also have to prove and maintain reliability to keep subscribers. At the moment most such tools are generative text engines which work a little like predictive text on a cellphone. They "write" by simply predicting the most likely following words based on the context of the previous text and a vast database of documents, often "scraped" from the Internet. In many cases this has the helpful effect of creating an accurate and concise summary of what is already online, but this isn't a guaranteed outcome.

What's Your Opinion?

What do you want from a search engine? Could AI do a better job of providing it? Would you be willing to pay extra for such a feature?

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Dennis Faas's picture

If the text-generated AI response is going to be anything like Google Gemini's picture results, then I'll take a hard pass.

doulosg's picture

I don't trust AI. I have found its results underwhelming. Anything a Google AI produced in response to the kinds of questions I ask (on Google) would be highly suspect. At least I can vet the websites in a list of search results, but how would I know if the ones I would pass on were the very ones the AI used?
I should tell you about the convos I had with Meta's AI and its replacement of the Facebook search feature. Disgusting.