To call ChatGPT, the free text-generating AI developed by San Francisco-based startup OpenAI, a hit is a massive understatement.
As of December, ChatGPT had an estimated more than 100 million monthly active users. It’s attracted major media attention and spawned countless memes on social media. It’s been used to write hundreds of e-books in Amazon’s Kindle store. And it’s credited with co-authoring at least one scientific paper.
But OpenAI, being a business — albeit a capped-profit one — had to monetize ChatGPT somehow, lest investors get antsy. It took a step toward this with the launch of a premium service, ChatGPT Plus, in February. And it made a bigger move today, introducing an API that’ll allow any business to build ChatGPT tech into their apps, websites, products and services.
An API was always the plan. That’s according to Greg Brockman, the president and chairman of OpenAI (and also one of the co-founders). He spoke with me yesterday afternoon via a video call ahead of the launch of the ChatGPT API.
“It takes us a while to get these APIs to a certain quality level,” Brockman said. “I think it’s kind of this, like, just being able to meet the demand and the scale.”
Brockman says the ChatGPT API is powered by the same AI model behind OpenAI’s wildly popular ChatGPT, dubbed “gpt-3.5-turbo.” GPT-3.5 is the most powerful text-generating model OpenAI offers today through its API suite; the “turbo” moniker refers to an optimized, more responsive version of GPT-3.5 that OpenAI’s been quietly testing for ChatGPT.
Priced at $0.002 per 1,000 tokens, or about 750 words, Brockman claims that the API can drive a range of experiences, including “non-chat” applications. Snap, Quizlet, Instacart and Shopify are among the early adopters.
The initial motivation behind developing gpt-3.5-turbo might’ve been to cut down on ChatGPT’s gargantuan compute costs. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman once called ChatGPT’s expenses “eye-watering,” estimating them at a few cents per chat in compute costs. (With over a million users, that presumably adds up quickly.)
But Brockman says that gpt-3.5-turbo is improved in other ways.
“If you’re building an AI-powered tutor, you never want the tutor to just give an answer to the student. You want it to always explain it and help them learn — that’s an example of the kind of system you should be able to build [with the API],” Brockman said. “We think this is going to be something that will just, like, make the API much more usable and accessible.”
The ChatGPT API underpins My AI, Snap’s recently announced chatbot for Snapchat+ subscribers, and Quizlet’s new Q-Chat virtual tutor feature. Shopify used the ChatGPT API to build a personalized assistant for shopping recommendations