Microsoft lets ChatGPT-powered Bing off its leash – I just hope it doesn’t backfire

Robotic cyborg hand pressing a keyboard on a laptop
(Image credit: sdecoret / Shutterstock)

Microsoft has boosted its Bing search engine, to which it recently added artificial intelligence-powered chat capabilities, by increasing the number of chats it can have with a user in a day from 100 to 120.

When Microsoft first introduced Bing’s new feature, which is based on the popular ChatGPT chatbot, there was a lot of initial excitement… but then Bing started behaving strangely. People noticed that Bing’s AI chatbot would start acting increasingly bizarrely the longer their conversations with it went on.

This included Bing giving out incorrect information, and then having what can only be described as a tantrum when its errors were pointed out, which led to Microsoft hastily limiting the amount of responses Bing could give within a chat in a bid to curtail those worrying conversations.

It worked, but it came at a cost, as Bing suddenly became a lot more boring.

Fixing the chat

The last thing Microsoft wants is for Bing to be considered boring again, so it’s been understandably keen to increase the chat limit once the bugs have been ironed out, so the news that it is offering a big increase to 120, which follows an increase from 60 to 100, is certainly welcome.

Also, Microsoft’s initial limit to just five replies was seen by many to be too drastic – it certainly limited the usefulness of Bing by cutting chats short – and it took the fun out of it as well.

As MSPoweruser reports, Microsoft’s head of advertising and web services, Mikhail Parakhin, explained on Twitter that, in addition to the increased chat limit, users will now be able to have a conversation depth of eight – the limit was briefly increased from five to eight, before it was dropped back to six.

See more

Initial reports, as mentioned by Parakhin, suggest Bing is holding up well following this increase, and Microsoft’s softly-softly approach to expanding Bing’s AI chat capabilities is certainly sensible.

This whole saga does show the risks of rolling out AI features, however. Microsoft was too cavalier when it first introduced the new Bing chatbot, and then too conservative in response to the embarrassing issues that emerged. I think it should have started lower, and slowly built up Bing’s responses.

However, Microsoft clearly doesn’t want to move too slowly, for fear that people will lose interest in Bing – something the company has had to struggle with in the past, with most people using its chief competitor Google instead.

But going too fast too soon also brings risks. If Microsoft hasn’t properly fixed the underlying issues, we may see a return of Bing’s stranger side, and as entertaining as that can be, it could lead to a real PR headache for Microsoft.

Matt Hanson
Managing Editor, Core Tech

Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Core Tech, looking after computing and mobile technology. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. Ever since he got an Amiga A500+ for Christmas in 1991, he's loved using (and playing on) computers, and will talk endlessly about how The Secret of Monkey Island is the best game ever made.