In November, OpenAI wowed the world when it released an experimental online chatbot called ChatGPT that could answer questions, write poetry and riff on almost any topic tossed its way.
Now, the tiny San Francisco start-up has announced that it will soon offer a commercial version of the chatbot called ChatGPT Plus for $20 a month.
Subscribers will receive round-the-clock access to the chatbot, faster response times and access to new features, OpenAI said. The company will continue to offer a free version of the service, which is available to only a limited number of people during peak hours.
ChatGPT is the most prominent example of a new kind of chatbot that has captured the imagination of both the business world and the general public in recent weeks. Google, Meta and various start-ups have built similar systems that are only just beginning to emerge on the internet.
The result of more than a decade of research, these chatbots represent a sea change in the way the computer software is built and used. They are poised to reinvent internet search engines like Google Search and Bing; talking digital assistants like Alexa and Siri; and email programs like Gmail and Outlook.
They can also generate digital text that can be repurposed in almost any context. Students are already using ChatGPT to write term papers. Companies are generating email messages and other marketing materials.
But the technology comes with caveats. Because the capabilities of these chatbots are created by analyzing vast amounts of digital text posted to the internet, they cannot distinguish between fact and fiction and can produce text that is biased against women and people of color.
Initially, ChatGPT Plus will be available only to users in the United States. OpenAI has started a waiting list for the service and will begin inviting people on the list to join in the coming weeks.
The company said that it would soon expand the service to other countries.
Chatbots like ChatGPT are unusually expensive to operate. In a recent tweet, Sam Altman, OpenAI’s chief executive, said the company spends “single-digit cents” serving up each chat on the service. That can quickly add up, considering that more than a million people used ChatGPT in the first few days after its release.
The new subscription service is designed as a way of making some of this money back while the company continues to offer a free version of the chatbot, said Hannah Wong-Silva, a spokeswoman for OpenAI.