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What is ChatGPT? The Elon Musk-founded chatbot breaking the internet

ChatGPT is the latest tool in auto text-generating AIs  (PA Wire)
ChatGPT is the latest tool in auto text-generating AIs (PA Wire)

The internet is being completely overtaken by ChatGPT.

OpenAI, a research firm specialising in artificial intelligence (AI), made the platform available for public testing on December 1.

It was an instant hit, with millions asking the chatbot for help with tasks including their homework, party ideas, scheduling, and simplifying long text documents, essays and complicated topics.

Within two months, ChatGPT had reportedly jumped to 100 million users, passing university exams and spooking teachers along the way.

The chatbot’s success has sparked a renewed AI race in big tech to create the next big conversational bot. Google is poised to release its own ChatGPT rival that could help power more direct responses in Google Search. While Microsoft has leveraged its status as an OpenAI investor to add ChatGPT’s skills to its business and workplace services, including Teams and its Bing search engine.


Here’s everything you need to know about the viral chatbot.

What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is a chatbot that can answer your questions using its AI knowledge bank to spit out text replies. It’s designed in such a way that users can receive both technical as well as jargon-free replies based on their inputs.

Its creator OpenAI is an independent research body founded by Elon Musk and Sam Altman in 2015.

The AI-powered chatbot is available to the public free of charge on OpenAI’s website as part of a public testing phase that began in December.

The key difference between ChatGPT and other AI chatbots is that the platform can answer follow-up questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests.

It can even review and write codes in seconds and solve complex maths problems.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman  sold an app he co-founded called Loopt for $43 million in 2012 (Getty)
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman sold an app he co-founded called Loopt for $43 million in 2012 (Getty)

How does ChatGPT work?

ChatGPT is a free service, but only during the research preview. This means one can simply head to the OpenAI website and click on the “Try ChatGPT” button to begin using the platform.

You can either sign up or use your OpenAI account to start using ChatGPT. However, due to ongoing demand, you may be forced to wait in line to use the bot during busy periods.

The platform is not without errors or limitations — the website discloses that ChatGPT occasionally creates plausible-sounding, inaccurate, or meaningless responses.

Nor can it provide up-to-date information as the data it was trained on covers events until 2021. This means that it is completely unaware of anything that happened after that time, according to OpenAI. For example, it may not know who is the president of the United States, what the latest viral meme is, or what day it is, the company adds.

OpenAI says it reviews people’s conversations with the bot to make it smarter. You can rate its responses using the thumbs up or down buttons to leave feedback. Those concerned about privacy can request to have their account deleted, resulting in their data being completely removed.

Is ChatGPT free?

As mentioned above, ChatGPT is currently free to use during its test period.

However, OpenAI launched a new subscription plan in the US for $20 a month. ChatGPT Plus, as it’s known, is currently available on an invite-only basis to those who have signed up to join the waitlist. It includes benefits such as uninterrupted access to the bot, even during peak times, faster response times, and priority access to new features and improvements.

OpenAI has said that the premium plan will allow it to continue providing free access to ChatGPT.

Can ChatGPT oust Google Search?

Google boss  Sundar Pichai says his company is preparing to unveil its own chatbot (Manu Fernandez/AP)
Google boss Sundar Pichai says his company is preparing to unveil its own chatbot (Manu Fernandez/AP)

At the time of writing, no, because Google is a search engine and ChatGPT is a chatbot.

ChatGPT’s main purpose is to use natural language procession technology to simulate human-like conversations with users, while Google is designed to find information on the internet. Though ChatGPT can tell you how our galaxy was formed, it won’t know what time your local Tesco closes, for instance.

However, both platforms do have one thing in common: they serve the same purpose, which is to assist users with answers to a variety of questions.

Therefore, ChatGPT could eventually help you to browse the web by fetching direct answers to your queries, instead of making you trawl through endless search results. That’s why Microsoft is reportedly adding it to its overlooked Bing search engine.

Not to be left behind, Google is promising to let the public play with its latest AI language model as part of its search engine, known as an LaMDA. Short for Language Models for Dialog Applications, Google has said the tech can understand millions of topics and generate “natural” responses to questions.

Only employees and select members of the public have thus far been able to try out the bot. But that could be about to change, with Google reportedly planning to debut a public version that some suggest could appear at an event on February 8.