Why Google Never Shipped Its ChatGPT Predecessor

Big Tech War Stories debuts with Gaurav Nemade, the founding product manager of Google LaMDA, on why the smart chatbot never shipped.

Alex Kantrowitz
2 min readOct 31, 2023

Google had an equal — and perhaps better — version of ChatGPT working inside its company before OpenAI released its bot to the world. But it never shipped.

So why didn’t Google ship it?

Gaurav Nemade, the bot’s first product manager, shares what happened on our new Big Tech War Stories podcast. This is the show’s first-ever episode — available to premium Big Technology subscribers — and we’re debuting with a free preview today.

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The key issues holding the bot back, according to Nemade, were public relations concerns and the dark cloud cast by Microsoft’s misadventure with Tay, a teenage character bot that turned Nazi overnight.

“PR always top of mind for leaders,” says Nemade. “On the other side, OpenAI — they don’t give a shit about PR. For the most part, they don’t. They are like, ‘Okay, this is what we think is right. This is a reasonable way of putting it out.’ They become vulnerable, they put it out, and then they work with the community.”

Nemade also shares a list of potential products his team thought LLM technology could be used for, including imbuing non-playable characters in video games with complex personalities and bots that would get you out of awkward situations by calling your phone and talking you to safety.

Google eventually did ship Bard, an LLM-powered chatbot, but Nemade is convinced it would’ve sat on the technology if OpenAI hadn’t forced its hand. More in the interview!

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Alex Kantrowitz

Veteran journalist covering Big Tech and society. Subscribe to my newsletter here: https://bigtechnology.substack.com.