Microsoft’s Bing chatbot is getting ads

It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: ads are coming to Bing’s AI-powered chatbot. Microsoft corporate vice president Yusuf Mehdi said in a blog on Wednesday that the company is “exploring placing ads in the chat experience,” and when we asked for more details, a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed that you might start seeing them.

“Yes, ads will show in the new Bing, specifically in chat (as they do in the traditional search results),” said Caitlin Roulston, a director of communications at Microsoft, says in a statement to The Verge. “Since the new Bing is in preview, there may be some variability in how it’s currently showing up. We’re still exploring new opportunities for ad experiences and will share more over time.”

Microsoft has been testing ads in Bing for awhile — it reportedly discussed them with ad agencies in February. If you want an idea of what the ads might look like, check out this example Debarghya Das shared from a query about cheap Honda cars. After two of the sentences, there are citations with a small “Ad” box that appear to link back to Bing.

I can’t get any Bing Chat ads to show up myself, so I can’t tell you if there is any of the “variability” that Roulston mentioned in the statement. But the example shared by Das seems like a logical way for Microsoft to mark an ad, and if that’s the experience everyone eventually sees, I don’t think it would be too obtrusive.

The thing is, we still don’t know the volume of ads we might see or how Microsoft will pick whether to show an ad or source a response directly from a publisher or website. In the blog post, Mehdi says that Microsoft wants to “share the ad revenue with partners whose content contributed to the chat response,” but that doesn’t answer the question of the balance Microsoft plans to strike between ad and non-ad responses. Whatever that balance is, the inclusion of ads will add to the already difficult cognitive load of determining whether you can trust a given response.

Update March 29th, 8:52PM ET: Added details about Microsoft testing ads and discussing them with advertisers.

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