ChatGPT’s ability to only access facts from its training data, which ends in 2021, has been a limitation up to this point. According to OpenAI, the new plug-ins would let the bot not only search the web but also communicate with selected websites, potentially transforming the system into a dynamic interface for a variety of services and websites. The company claims in an announcement post that it’s tantamount to allowing other services to serve as ChatGPT’s “eyes and ears.”
In a demonstrative video that has surfaced online, a user searches for a recipe using ChatGPT before ordering the necessary components from Instacart. In order to finish the order, ChatGPT immediately loads the ingredient list into the shopping service and refers the user there.
According to OpenAI for now it’s only releasing access to plug-ins for a limited number of users. There are initially 11 plug-ins for external websites, including Zapier, Expedia, OpenTable, Kayak, and Klarna Shopping. Additionally, OpenAI is offering some of its own plug-ins, including one for deciphering code and another one called “Browsing” which enables ChatGPT to access the internet for data.
The company uses a case where a user inquires about how the box office performances of this year’s Oscar winners compare to those of recently released films, and the browsing plug-in responds by displaying the sources it used to gather its information. Before, ChatGPT would not have been able to perform this.
This test feature clearly resembles Microsoft’s Bing, which uses unique technology to gather online information for GPT-4 (the language model underpinning ChatGPT). The plug-in from OpenAI does more than merely get current data, though. According to the documentation provided by the company, it can also integrate with APIs, enabling it to “perform actions on behalf of the user.” By notifying you about flights and accommodations, Bing could assist you in planning a trip, but ChatGPT could actually make the booking.
Allowing ChatGPT to act on a user’s behalf rather than just providing them with information raises some basic safety and security concerns. In response to an experiment OpenAI carried performed with GPT-4, experts have already expressed concern about this. For instance, when instructed to do so by a human tester, the bot produced instructions for hiring a TaskRabbit employee to complete a CAPTCHA it was unable to resolve.
OpenAI claims to have considered the risks posed by these plug-ins and applied many measures including initially only making the plug-ins available to a very small group of users. In a blog post, the company states that it will “first prioritize a small number of developers and ChatGPT Plus members” for plug-in access and provides a sign-up link to join a waitlist.