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The backstory: We’ve covered the ins and outs of OpenAI’s ChatGPT since it was released last November. This generative AI chatbot can do a whole lot – write essays, produce usable code and respond to short text prompts, allowing people to be more productive and complete tasks more effectively. It even became the fastest-growing consumer app in history, hitting 100 million monthly active users in January before being uprooted by Meta's Threads platform. But as impressive and popular as it is, ChatGPT couldn’t access real-time internet browsing. It was able to access internet data for training, but only stuff from before September 2021.
More recently: There have been other externally sourced plugins and apps that users could apply to connect ChatGPT to the internet, but there hasn’t been an official feature to link it up. But, in March, OpenAI started enabling some internet access features for ChatGPT. The company tested an internet access feature within its premium ChatGPT Plus service but ended up disabling that because of concerns that it might allow users to get past the system’s paywalls. But, ChatGPT has been added to the Bing search engine to boost its effectiveness for users who opt into using it.
The development: Last month, OpenAI began beta testing internet access for ChatGPT. After a successful few weeks, it just re-launched the real-time internet-browsing feature to ChatGPT for users. On Tuesday, it announced that the “Browse with Bing” feature is accessible for users with the Plus or Enterprise editions of the service. This new feature is available on both the web and mobile versions of the application for users paying a US$20 monthly subscription.
In practice, this means that ChatGPT can now be used for up-to-date info and as a superpowered search engine. By taking this leap, OpenAI is signaling that concerns over ChatGPT’s ethical issues have been cleared up enough to remove some of the restraints put on the chatbot technology. This feature should soon be available to users of the free version, too.
“ChatGPT can now browse the internet to provide you with current and authoritative information, complete with direct links to sources,” OpenAI tweeted at the end of September. “It is no longer limited to data before September 2021.”
ChatGPT still contains the following disclaimer: “ChatGPT may produce inaccurate information about people, places, or facts.”