Google’s recent ChatGPT competitor event has landed the company in hot water, with employees reportedly criticizing CEO Sundar Pichai for what they see as a “rushed, botched” announcement. The event, which was designed to reassure investors, has had the opposite effect, with the stock down almost 12% since the recent high just before the event.
Internal messages from Google’s “Memegen” employee forum have been viewed by CNBC, and they reveal that employees are highly critical of the CEO’s performance. One message reads, “Dear Sundar, the Bard launch and the layoffs were rushed, botched, and myopic. Please return to taking a long-term outlook.”
Another highly upvoted post states, “Sundar, and leadership, deserve a Perf NI. They are being comically short sighted and un-Googlely in their pursuit of ‘sharpening focus.'” A “Perf NI” is the lowest employee performance rating of “Needs Improvement,” indicating that Pichai’s performance as CEO is not meeting expectations.
Google’s ChatGPT competitor event was announced last Wednesday, but the company made the bizarre decision to spoil that announcement with a blog post two days earlier. Apparently, Microsoft had already sent out invites for the ChatGPT-powered ‘New Bing’ product launch for that Tuesday, preempting Google’s announcement by a day, and Google wanted to preempt the preempters.
However, the events could not have gone more differently. Microsoft announced the “New Bing” on Tuesday and launched a product that people can try. Bing + ChatGPT is out in the wild, where it will try to condense search results into a readable paragraph and answer questions. It’s also integrated into the Microsoft Edge browser, where it can answer questions, help compose something, or summarize a page.
Google’s announcement of its “Bard” chatbot, on the other hand, only gave an overview of Google’s planned features, with details so vague that anyone could have written them. Google’s post included one example answer, and that answer proved to be wrong, earning it an embarrassing correction article in Reuters. The blog post has since been updated with a new example, but it highlighted AI’s tendency to generate plausible-sounding but incorrect answers.
The event didn’t include any public product launch of its chatbot technology, opting instead for a private “trusted testers” program. The event was mostly filler, with only five minutes of the 40-minute event dedicated to its ChatGPT competitor, and nearly all of that information was already present in the spoiler blog post on Monday. The rest of the event covered small updates to Google Translate, Maps, and Lens.
One employee wrote that “Rushing Bard to market in a panic validated the market’s fear about us.” Another posted a picture of a dumpster fire with a Google logo on it, saying it was representative of “How everything’s felt since last year.” Another criticized how stock-focused the company seems to be lately, saying, “Firing 12k people rises the stock by 3%, one rushed AI presentation drops it by 8%.”
The real issue is that Google invented the key technology that underpins ChatGPT. The “GPT” in ChatGPT stands for “Generative Pre-trained Transformer,” with a “Transformer” being a neural network architecture that was invented and open-sourced by the Google Brain team in 2017. Back then, Google described Transformer as “particularly well suited for language understanding” but never created a product with the technology. ChatGPT’s owner, OpenAI, turns AI research into products like ChatGPT and DALL-E that people can actually use, while Google keeps it locked away in a lab.