Google may charge subscription fees for AI-powered searches: report

Google is reportedly weighing the possibility of charging subscription fees for its controversial AI-powered online search features.

A subscription plan would mark the first time in Google’s history that it has charged for use of its search engine. Google risk additional scrutiny from regulators, including the Justice Department, which is in the midst of a landmark antitrust lawsuit targeting the Big Tech firm’s alleged monopoly over the online search market.

The unspecified AI search features could be added to Google’s existing premium subscription services, which already offer the company’s Gemini AI assistant within its Gmail and Docs products, the Financial Times reported Thursday, citing sources familiar with the situation.

Google executives have reportedly yet to make a final decision on the plan. Future Publishing via Getty Images

Google executives reportedly have yet to decide whether to implement the concept, which is nevertheless said to be in active development.

The company’s regular search engine would still be free to use.

Both the premium and free search products would show ads.

Google said it doesn’t “have anything to announce right now” regarding its plans.

“For years, we’ve been reinventing Search to help people access information in the way that’s most natural to them,” Google said in a statement. “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.”

The company’s stock fell about 1.5% in early trading Thursday.

The internal deliberations are the latest sign of Google’s scramble to integrate AI into its products. The company has been testing its so-called “Search Generative Experience” since last year.

Google was forced to shut down its Gemini AI’s image tool after it began generating ahistorical images. Google Gemini

As The Post has reported, lawmakers fear the addition of AI-powered search could further entrench Google’s monopoly over the online search market unless regulators intervene.

A federal judge is expected to hear final arguments in the DOJ’s antitrust suit against Google next month, with a verdict on whether the company has maintained an illegal monopoly projected later this year.

DOJ lawyers focused on Google’s use of billions of dollars in payments to Apple and other partners to ensure its search engine is enabled by default on most smartphones.

Google’s search empire remains its primary source of revenue, with online ad sales hitting a massive $175 billion last year alone.

It would make the first time ever that Google has charged for search engine features. Getty Images

Scrutiny over Google’s AI ambitions has intensified since February, when the company unveiled a highly-touted update for its “Gemini” chatbot – only for it to begin spitting out historically inaccurate AI-generated pictures such as Black Vikings and Native American Founding Fathers.

Google later disabled the image generation tool and apologized.

Despite the high-profile hiccups, a report last month said Apple is in talks to use Google Gemini to power some AI features on its iPhones.

One well-connected tech policy insider described the negotiations as “brazen to say the least.”

“Google is awaiting a verdict as we speak on similar issues relating to search defaults, and Apple itself is reportedly facing an imminent antitrust complaint from DOJ,” the insider told The Post.

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