Don’t panic. It might be too soon to say this, but it is quite possible that OpenAI, the company behind the revolutionary AI product, ChatGPT, might just have to pull the plug on it. There are reasons that lead up to this.
OpenAI has been trying to fix the mess that ChatGPT is in all this while. Most recently, the company decided to acquire Global Illumination, a startup leveraging AI for building creative tools including games and simulated worlds. The company has previously driven a lot of projects with YouTube, Google, Pixar, and Riot Games. OpenAI said that the whole team would help it to fix its core products including ChatGPT.
The latest project that Global Illuminations has built is Biomes, which is an open source sandbox MMORPG similar to Microsoft’s Minecraft, which runs directly on the web. There can be a possibility that the company wants to launch another consumer-facing product, which might possibly be a social experiment/game — to possibly collect data and train its upcoming AI models.
Because for now, the company is finding it very difficult to upgrade its AI models’ capabilities. Though it has filed for a trademark on ‘GPT-5’, it has not yet delivered all the multi-modal capabilities that it had promised with GPT-4. A lot of it is possibly because of the global GPU shortage. But with this partnership, the company might be able to “ethically” collect users’ data as they interact with multiple GPT-based bots or digital NPCs.
Not sure if OpenAI is moving away from text-based LLM thought process and following Google DeepMind’s route to build better AI systems, and eventually AGI, based on rule-based games – the likes of AlphaGo, etc, which are coincidentally being used to build Gemini, which is touted to be launched next month, and is better than GPT-4 (that powers ChatGPT).
ChatGPT in a Mess
ChatGPT is currently facing a lot of challenges. The product that acquired a million users in just 5 days, is currently witnessing a decline in users. The last three months have constantly seen a decrease in the number of users of website visits. In July, the number of users dropped to 1.5 billion, compared to 1.7 billion in June – i.e. close to 12% percent MoM.
One of the reasons for this can be the degradation of the output quality of ChatGPT, which is reported by a lot of users on Reddit and X. To fix these issues, OpenAI needs access to a lot more data to fine-tune the model. But that is not possible. It has been increasingly deciding to increase the privacy measures for its users, and thus has been constantly saying that it won’t collect data from conversations if the users opt out.
On the other hand, to tackle this data privacy issue and still be able to train its AI model, the company has been partnering with news and journalism websites such as AP and others to collect first hand information. But in turn is costing the company even more.
According to the Information, OpenAI had to bear the loss of $540 million to build ChatGPT, and the operational costs are exorbitantly high as well – around $700,000 per day. Thus, the company is not profiting right now. Funnily enough, all of this money is going from the pockets of Microsoft. This can probably raise a conflict between both the companies about how they want to continue this relationship going forward.
In a recent event, Microsoft released a GitHub repository of Azure ChatGPT, where it was offering services directly on the Azure platform. The most astonishing part about this was that the blog read that people have always been concerned about the privacy concerns about using ChatGPT directly as OpenAI might be able to collect data. This does sound like the company is acknowledging that there is a feud between both companies.
A day later, the repository was deleted. It is not clear if the upload was by mistake or hinting towards a problem between both the companies. But whatever the case is, it only makes sense for OpenAI to pull the plug on the free web version of ChatGPT given the operational costs and it is not benefiting Microsoft in any way. The only way Microsoft is earning revenue through OpenAI is by the Azure OpenAI Service, and it is only reasonable for Microsoft to push all the users onto it, instead of freely giving away ChatGPT to everyone.
Clearly, there can’t be two ChatGPTs.
In March, after Microsoft renovated Bing Search with ChatGPT, it reached 100 million users, which is still very low compared to ChatGPT’s 1.5 billion right now. OpenAI was against Microsoft’s move to integrate an incomplete version of GPT-4 into Bing Chat, but Microsoft went ahead with it anyway. For Microsoft, ChatGPT being available only on its Azure Cloud and Bing makes total sense. Dispute has been clearly on for both the companies.
Even though ChatGPT is helping a lot of users, it is as good as dead from a company standpoint. Companies have been banning the use of ChatGPT for their employees due to privacy concerns, which just makes the case worse for OpenAI. Due to these data privacy concerns, people have also decided to migrate and build their own LLM-based models leveraging open-source offerings such as Llama 2.
The reason that OpenAI is most likely to shut down the free ChatGPT website and not the whole line of GPT products is that people are still using the APIs offered by the company for building their own products, which interestingly has seen an increase in the last two months. But that is also not helping Microsoft in any way.
Plus, OpenAI has been in the midst of a lot of legal and ethical troubles for building ChatGPT, and Microsoft wants to distance itself from it because of that. It also shut down its AI classifier for identifying AI generated text because the company admitted that it is not able to do the job.
All of this points to the fact that giving ChatGPT away for free is not benefiting OpenAI anymore. It has already acquired all the users that it wanted and now it is time to make money out of it, which only Microsoft can help them do.
If Microsoft has plans to acquire OpenAI in the future, it only makes sense for OpenAI to pull the plug on ChatGPT by itself as it does not really benefit them anyway. It has already proven its point and acquired billions of users. Microsoft can just take these services and integrate them exclusively on Azure or Bing Search Engine and monetise it, making everyone happy in the end.
Imagine a world where we all go to Bing Chat just to use ChatGPT, and that too in real time, and who knows it might even be better than Google Search? But since ChatGPT is OpenAI’s pet project, it might be hard to give up on it completely.