Close up of the ChatGPT logo on a Google Pixel 7 Pro
Justin Duino / How-To Geek

ChatGPT from OpenAI is an increasingly-popular chatbot, but without knowledge of recent world events, its usefulness has been limited. OpenAI is now introducing plugins for ChatGPT, including some that give ChatGPT access to web data.

ChatGPT doesn’t have the ability to search the internet for information, which is something Microsoft partially addressed with Bing Chat (based on the same OpenAI technology). OpenAI’s solution is a new plugins feature, which allows other developers to create add-ons for ChatGPT that can be turned on or off as needed — many of which connect to web services.

The first wave of third-party plugins work a bit like Amazon Alexa Skills. There’s an Expedia plugin for managing trip plans, an Instacart plugin for ordering from grocery stores, and an OpenTable plugin for restaurant searches. However, OpenAI also has two plugins of its own: a web browser and a code interpreter. The browser plugin can perform web searches and cite sources in answers, exactly like Bing — OpenAI even says it’s using Bing’s search API.

Person: "how do this year's Oscar winners compare to recently released movies for box office sales?" ChatGPT: "The 2023 Oscar winner for Best Picture, "Everything Everywhere All at Once," earned $100 million at the box office'. Recently released movies such as "Scream VI" have grossed $58,529,284 in its first seven days. While "Scream VI" has had a strong start at the box office, it's worth noting that "Everything Everywhere All at Once" has had a longer run in theaters to accumulate its $100 million in box office sales."

OpenAI said in a blog post, “We’ve created a web browsing plugin which gives a language model access to a web browser, with its design prioritizing both safety and operating as a good citizen of the web. The plugin’s text-based web browser is limited to making GET requests, which reduces (but does not eliminate) certain classes of safety risks. This scopes the browsing plugin to be useful for retrieving information, but excludes “transactional” operations such as form submission which have more surface area for security and safety issues.”

The web browsing functionality seems close to Bing Chat, which is better, but still not great. Bing still isn’t great at sorting through data, or knowing when a source is too out of date to be useful, or other similar problems.

Plugins in ChatGPT are currently limited to “a small number of developers and ChatGPT Plus users,” and they will roll out more widely as some of the bugs are worked out.

Source: OpenAI, TechCrunch

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Corbin Davenport is the News Editor at How-To Geek, an independent software developer, and a podcaster. He previously worked at Android Police, PC Gamer, and XDA Developers.
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