According to a new report from the Financial Times, Google is seriously considering charging for AI-powered search, currently known as the Search Generative Experience (SGE). This is the first time Google has ever thought about charging for a search product, so if it does happen, it will be big news.

We’re far from that point, though, as for now these only seem to be internal discussions. While engineers are currently developing “the technology needed to deploy the service”, executives haven’t yet made a final decision on whether to launch it or when. Still, if the company goes through with such a plan, it would charge for new premium search features powered by generative AI.

Google wants to charge you for AI-powered search

Another option would be to bundle some premium AI search features with its existing subscriptions, which already offer access to Gemini in Gmail and Docs through the Google One AI Premium plan. Whatever happens, the ‘traditional’ search engine will remain free, while, interestingly, the paid AI-powered service would not be ad-free.

The report claims that Google has been “scrambling to respond to the competitive threat posed” by ChatGPT for about 18 months now, and while the former part of this statement has been pretty clear for everyone to see (the “scrambling” bit), how much of a “competitive threat” ChatGPT poses to Google search is a proclamation that needs a lot of citations, and this one has none.

Google wants to charge you for AI-powered search

Then again, in the future ChatGPT could theoretically become a replacement for Google search, in which case Google’s ad revenue will definitely be impacted, and ad revenue is basically Google revenue, so it’s not surprising that the company would be thinking of ways to respond and adapt.

Because generative AI consumes a lot of resources, an AI powered search engine would be more expensive to run, hence why the immediate solution seems to be charging for it – and it’s not just Google, after all ChatGPT and Microsoft’s Copilot both have paid tiers.

In a statement, a Google spokesperson said:

For years, we’ve been reinventing Search to help people access information in the way that’s most natural to them. With our generative AI experiments in Search, we’ve already served billions of queries, and we’re seeing positive Search query growth in all of our major markets. We’re continuing to rapidly improve the product to serve new user needs. We don’t have anything to announce right now.

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