Home What is Perplexity AI? A guide to the search engine compared to ChatGPT

What is Perplexity AI? A guide to the search engine compared to ChatGPT


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  • Perplexity is an AI-enhanced search tool combining ChatGPT and Google Search elements.
  • Founded in 2022, it has secured $165 million in funding and is valued over $1 billion.
  • Perplexity offers advanced chatbot features, real-time updates, and transparent sources.

Perplexity, described as a “Swiss Army Knife for information discovery and curiosity,” is essentially an AI-enhanced search tool.

It combines ChatGPT and Google Search elements, yet it isn’t a direct substitute for either. The platform is similar to the direction Google is taking with Gemini, but appears to be less chaotic.

It provides a list of websites relevant to your query, along with a concise summary answer and the sources used to generate it. Sometimes, the summary alone suffices, while other times, you might explore the various sources for deeper insight.

Although Perplexity cannot fully replace traditional search engines, it proves to be surprisingly functional and effective within its limits. It’s even been hailed by the likes of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Who owns Perplexity?

Perplexity, founded in 2022, was co-created by Aravind Srinivas, Denis Yarats, Johnny Ho, and Andy Konwinski, all engineers with expertise in AI, machine learning, and back-end systems.

Yarats is the current CTO and previously was an AI research scientist at Meta. CEO Srinivas has a background with OpenAI as an AI researcher. Chief Strategy Officer Ho has experience as an engineer at Quora and a quantitative trader on Wall Street. Konwinski was part of the initial team at Databricks.

By 2024, Perplexity successfully secured $165 million in funding, reaching a valuation exceeding $1 billion. Its investors include prominent figures and firms such as Bezos, Nvidia, Databricks, Bessemer Venture Partners, Susan Wojcicki, Jeff Dean, Yann LeCun, Andrej Karpathy, Nat Friedman, and Garry Tan.

What is Perplexity AI used for?

Perplexity works like an advanced chatbot, answering queries while seamlessly integrating recent articles. It indexes the web daily, so you can ask about the latest news, sports scores, and other common search topics. This indexing capacity is so effective that it can provide real-time updates, like the latest scores from Wimbledon, which we tested out.

A search engine results page showing the tennis match score between Jasmine Paolini and Emma Navarro at Wimbledon, with Paolini winning 6-2, 6-1. Perplexity AI search results shows real-time information
The search engine pulled in live results

The platform, which the company describes as continuously updating, also remembers the context of each interaction, storing them as “Threads.” This means any previously provided information is considered in subsequent queries. It also suggests “Related” search queries to expand your exploration.

What sets Perplexity apart is its transparency with sources. It lists references and provides footnotes for every piece of information, making it a viable alternative to traditional search engines. You can explore deeper into any topic rather than just accepting the AI-generated explanation, which isn’t always correct.

How to use Perplexity AI

To maximize your interaction with Perplexity, here are three main tips.

Use the platform’s smart search functionality

Use the platform’s smart search functionality to upload files for a detailed context or use two to three keywords for simpler queries. This approach lets you quickly find the answers you need.

Personalize your experience

Secondly, personalize your experience by adjusting settings in your AI Profile, such as language, output format, and tone, making Perplexity more tailored to your preferences.

Manage your privacy

Finally, manage your privacy and collaboration effectively. Your interactions, by default, remain private, but you can opt to share them publicly. Use Threads and Collections for teamwork or conduct shared research, customizing these features to suit your requirements.

  • Quick Search delivers rapid, straightforward answers
  • Pro Search explores deeper, tailoring responses to the specifics of your question. It may even pose follow-up questions to refine its responses further.

The main thing is that the process remains consistent. It understands the query, searches for relevant information across websites and articles, and then summarizes the findings.

For instance, we inquired about the benefits of consuming five fruits and vegetables daily, Perplexity used its large language model (LLM) to interpret our interest in health benefits. It then found authoritative health sites discussing these benefits, providing a succinct summary.

A search engine results page detailing the health benefits of consuming five portions of fruits and vegetables a day.
Sources are added to the top of the search

Both Quick and Pro searches offer similar information, though Pro Search might explore topics more thoroughly or provide specific dietary recommendations. Perplexity also developed its responses with images and videos and even allows users to generate custom images, making the experience far more interactive.

Does Perplexity AI use GPT?

Perplexity relies on several large language models (LLMs) to deliver its natural language processing features. This ensemble includes models like GPT-4, Claude 3, Mistral, and custom models developed by Perplexity itself. These LLMs are important for accurately interpreting user queries and providing concise summaries of the relevant information.

Is Perplexity better than ChatGPT?

If you’re turning to Google, Bing, or another search engine for answers, Perplexity can probably work as well. It tends to be better than traditional search engines by providing quick responses and is far more reliable than other chatbots when providing useful responses. Google Gemini offers a similar experience but Perplexity has some advantages.

Typical chatbot queries generally include tasks like trip planning and recipe fetching, however, the results sometimes appear to be subpar. Perplexity improves on these by pulling data from multiple web sources instead of relying only on an LLM, which means there is more reliable information. You can also check out the original articles it summarizes, adding an extra layer of verification.

 A detailed breakdown of the dietary benefits of the lemon herb baked salmon recipe, specifying how it meets pescatarian, diabetic, gluten-free, and lactose-free needs.
By using multiple sources, it was able to provide an answer where one source didn’t have all the information

What’s rather useful is its handling of information. For example, when we presented it with the challenging request to “Give me a recipe for someone with a diet that is pescatarian, diabetic, gluten-free and lactose-free,” Perplexity was able to it was able to provide a detailed and accurate response by mixing a group of sources.

A newly introduced Pro Search feature has made its AI capabilities with multi-step reasoning even more effective, as it can now link together multiple searches. This upgrade was first made available to web and iOS users last week and has now been extended to Android as well.

Pro Search can also now solve mathematical problems through an integration with Wolfram Alpha and to execute code, so it can compute far more challenging equations.

Perplexity AI features

Powered by a large language model (LLM), it has a few more advanced features that fare better than a traditional search engine:

  • Using its Pro search, it engages with users by asking clarifying questions to refine results, removing the need for you to constantly manually adjust your search terms. Users can easily ask follow-up questions or request modifications to the answers provided. Perplexity also supports documents and images, providing more comprehensive results
  • Perplexity is also able to generate images relevant to any queries or create text based on the information it retrieves
  • It also lets you organize searches—or “Threads”—into collections of related ideas, apply specific prompts to each Thread within a collection, and even share particular Threads with others.

The platform is accessible through mobile apps and two Chrome extensions. One of the extensions adds Perplexity as your default search engine while the other integrates its functionalities into any web page, so users can summarize content or answer queries directly from the site you’re viewing.

Is Perplexity reliable?

Though it is not yet a complete replacement for traditional search engines or general AI chatbots, it does a good job of gathering, presenting, and organizing information.

That being said, Perplexity’s team claims that they’ve taken steps to ensure accuracy. However, like all LLMs, Perplexity occasionally hallucinates details.

When searching for this journalist’s name, it incorrectly claimed that I had “experience in the film industry, having worked on an Oscar-nominated film,” which was sadly not true. Nonetheless, it did accurately provide a significant amount of information.

A fabricated professional profile of a journalist claiming experience in major news outlets and involvement in an Oscar-nominated film, though this latter detail is inaccurate.
Like all chatbots, Perplexity AI does hallucinate facts

While such errors are not entirely unexpected, they showcase that although Perplexity is pretty good at accessing recent information and disclosing its sources, it is not infallible.

Is Perplexity AI free?

Perplexity is currently accessible via its web app, mobile applications, and a Chrome extension. You can begin Quick Searches at no cost and without needing to register an account.

For more advanced searching capabilities, Perplexity Pro is available for $20/month, giving users access to hundreds of Pro Searches a day.

However, the updated Pro Search feature is not yet available in all areas.

To check if it’s available in your region, enter a detailed query and click the Pro Search toggle. If Perplexity does not break up the query into multiple searches, it means that the feature has not been enabled in your area.

Featured image: Perplexity AI via YouTube / Canva

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The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Suswati Basu
Tech journalist

Suswati Basu is a multilingual, award-winning editor and the founder of the intersectional literature channel, How To Be Books. She was shortlisted for the Guardian Mary Stott Prize and longlisted for the Guardian International Development Journalism Award. With 18 years of experience in the media industry, Suswati has held significant roles such as head of audience and deputy editor for NationalWorld news, digital editor for Channel 4 News and ITV News. She has also contributed to the Guardian and received training at the BBC As an audience, trends, and SEO specialist, she has participated in panel events alongside Google. Her…

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