Google considers charging you extra for AI-powered Google Search features

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 5, 2024
Google, Search

A report by the Financial Times (via Neowin) suggests that Google is considering charging search users for use of AI-powered search features.

The push towards an AI powered future has reached search engines. Microsoft and Google, arguably the two companies that own the world's largest search engines, have both added AI functionality to their search engines.

Microsoft has taken the lead, as several AI search features are already integrated into Bing, Microsoft's search engine. Google rolled out several experiments and options for users to use.

Now, it appears that Google is considering changing the very fundamentals of its search offering. Up until now, users of Google search paid with their data when they use the search engine. The core experience is financed by advertisement, which Google pushed more and more into its search engine.

While Google won't touch free search, it is considering charging users for access to certain search features. Some AI-powered search features are in testing already, courtesy of Google Search Labs.

The feature, which is limited to certain regions at the time, allows users to enable add-ons for search. Common examples include getting code tips, summaries, or additional information while browsing webpages.

According to the Financial Time's report, Google considers adding search-related AI features to "its premium subscription services".

In other words: Google Search remains free for users. Those who do not need AI-powered features can continue to use it without paying Google a subscription fee. They continue to pay with their data.

Those who want access to AI-powered search features would need to pay Google a subscription fee to do so. In addition, they would still pay with their data, as advertisement continues to be shown to them.

Google Search shift

The introduction of a paid add-on for Google Search marks a fundamental shift. Google never charged for Search, its core business. Google Search & other contributed more than 50% to Google's earnings in 2023 and the preceding years.

In the last quarter, Google Search & other brought in $48 billion of Google's total revenue of $86 billion. To put this into perspective, YouTube, second in revenue, contributed $9 billion in that quarter. Google Search is Google's main revenue driver.

The change would not impact search revenue, but it could propel it to new heights.

Why Google is considering charging for AI-powered Search features

The Financial Times report suggests that the main reason is computing costs. AI computations are expensive; they consume more resources and Google is looking into options to reduce costs or increase revenue.

Since the cost of AI computations won't go down anytime soon, Google considers charging for access to AI in search to counter increased operating costs.

Closing Words

Google has yet to decide whether to go forward with the plans or abandon them. It is unclear how Google would charge customers. It recently introduced a new tier to Google One, which gives customers access to its Gemini AI. Gemini is also available in the core Google products Gmail and Docs.

It would be a natural extension to link AI-powered search features to the very same subscription. Existing users would gain access to it automatically, and new users could subscribe to unlock these and other AI-powered tools.

The AI Premium plan is available for €21.99 per month currently. It includes access to Gemini Advanced, Gemini in Gmail, Docs, and other products, 2 TB of storage, and access to other Google One benefits.

Is AI going to improve search? Would you pay for AI tools, and if you would, which tools would you like to have access to?

Google considers charging you extra for AI-powered Google Search features
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Google considers charging you extra for AI-powered Google Search features
A report suggests that Google could charge users for access to AI-powered features in Google Search.
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  1. TelV said on April 16, 2024 at 11:40 am

    That bright idea will find its way into the digital trashcan in the same way Google VPN did no doubt:

  2. John said on April 7, 2024 at 4:23 pm

    So far, nothing I have experienced with AI makes me want to pay anything for it. Seems to be dramatically overhyped and under delivered.

  3. There's nothing social about social media. said on April 6, 2024 at 9:19 pm

    As reported here couple weeks ago: First HP printingg, then MS OS 10, now Google (AI) search. They want your money and will anything they can to get it.
    Goodbye internet, we hardly knew you…

  4. Tom Hawack said on April 6, 2024 at 6:21 pm

    I’ve just discovered that the DuckDuckGo search engine now includes an AI chatbot related to the user’s search query, with two models : GPT-3.5 Turbo (OpenAI) and Claude 1.2 Instant (Anthropic)

    Access the chatbots from either the corresponding button in DDG’s results’ navigation bar, either directly with :

    Side-note : I’ve tested on DDG’s chatbots (both models) as well as on HuggingChat [] (requires free registration) and none has been able to deliver a correct answer to a simple question. For those of you who access more elaborated chatbots I’d really appreciate if any of those are able to deliver a correct answer to :

    A French singer, male, alive, over 90 years old

    The answer should be, or include (there mustn’t be many to fulfill the criteria) : Hugues Aufray

    Chatbots I’ve mentioned above deliver a list of singers, French indeed, but who have either passed away or are under 90 years old. AI might be intelligent but why do they lack such a knowledge of Hugues Aufray and, more importantly, why do they provide answers which do not fulfill the criteria (alive and over 90 years old)? Ignoring is one thing, mistaking is another.

    Thanks for your input :)

  5. AC said on April 6, 2024 at 1:50 am

    So, their utterly worthless search engine remains nominally free to use?


    I was worried that I’d be unable to search for something, and be given page after page of completely unrelated garbage that has absolute no connection to my search at all. So relieved.

  6. Tachy said on April 5, 2024 at 4:11 pm

    You want me to pay you to rob me?

  7. Boris said on April 5, 2024 at 2:56 pm

    I am sure that there is going to be a nag-popup on Google Search reminding that for some money you could be getting 10 times better results. And I hope there will be an extension or script made pretty soon afterward to take care of that nag.

    I also not sure what valuable insight AI can offer in search that regular Google Search can not provide now. Maybe providing results that can be automatically imported into Excel or PDF file? I could see some business paying for that, but regular searchers? Or generating Video files with some avatar presenting answers? I could see few other possibilities but none of them sure hit.

  8. vgtz said on April 5, 2024 at 2:25 pm

    Yes, very good news!

  9. ECJ said on April 5, 2024 at 11:25 am

    Sounds like a win/win. I don’t pay them any money for AI and as a result I don’t get to see content from their bullsh*t generator. Additionally, they don’t have to waste 10 times the amount of energy on producing untrustworthy AI results that I never wanted in the first place.

  10. 45 RPM said on April 5, 2024 at 7:52 am

    This is fantastic news. I am passively enabled not to have AI give me even worse results from Google than they’re already producing. Please, Google, charge a LOT for AI.

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