UMWW’s Ben Tuff on Google’s Bard, Weixin-Grab, and Meta’s Within Victory

On this week's episode of The MadTech Podcast, Ben Tuff, chief product officer at UM Worldwide, joins ExchangeWire editor Grace Dillon and CSO Ciarán O'Kane to discuss AI's impact on search, Tencent partnering with Grab, Meta's victory over the FTC, and more.

Google announce ChatGPT rival

Are we seeing a fundamental shift in search? What implications could this have on search advertising?

Google has announced an AI chatbot, Bard, to rival the wildly popular ChatGPT. The program, which is built on the tech giant’s LaMDA conversational technology, is currently being tested by a select group of users, with plans to be made available to the public in a matter of weeks.

The announcement came just a day before Microsoft unveiled a new version of search engine Bing that incorporates ChatGPT. The big tech firm has agreed to invest billions of dollars into OpenAI, the company behind the chatbot, causing speculation that they would integrate the technology into Bing’s search function.

Tencent bolster Singapore presence

What does Singapore offer Tencent? 

Tencent has forged new partnerships with Singaporean companies to expand its presence in the country. The tech giant has united with regional ride-hailing app Grab through its WeChat app, which provides social media and instant messaging services, and acts as a digital wallet. The deal reportedly applies to both the domestic Chinese (Weixin) and the international (WeChat) versions of the app, which Tencent claims have over 1.3 billion monthly users.

Last December, Grab launched a ‘mini program’ via Weixin which lets users book services across 480 southeast Asian cities without having to download Grab separately and allows Chinese users to pay for purchases in Chinese yuan using Wiexin/WeChat Pay. The company is betting on the uptick in Chinese tourists to Singapore, as is Weixin, which is partnering with the Singapore Tourism Board on a new program targeting Chinese travellers.

Meta Within deal given go ahead

Are you surprised by this outcome? What does it mean for Meta and what further impact could it have?

A US judge has rejected an appeal by the Federal Trade Commission to prevent Meta from acquiring Within Unlimited. The FTC had argued that the tech giant’s plans to purchase the virtual reality app maker was anticompetitive because it would narrow the still-growing market. However, San Jose judge Edward Davila denied the authority’s request for an injunction against the merger, saying that Meta would have struggled to build a VR fitness app to compete with Within’s Supernatural.

The outcome is a significant win for Meta, both because the company has been under intense regulatory scrutiny for several years and because it means that this strategically important acquisition can go ahead. However, judge Davila deemed the premise of the FTC’s complaint — that the merger could stifle competition, also known as “actual potential competition” — valid, setting what some commentators consider an important precedent for future FTC antitrust investigations.