Home » What is ChatGPT and why does it matter? Here’s what you need to know

What is ChatGPT and why does it matter? Here’s what you need to know

by Divyang

ChatGPT is an AI chatbot with natural language processing (NLP) that allows you to have human-like conversations to complete various tasks. The generative AI tool can answer questions and assist you with tasks such as composing emails, essays, code, and more.

Also: How to use ChatGPT: What you need to know now

It can be used for free right now. Early access to OpenAI’s most recent models and changes is provided by ChatGPT Plus, a paid membership version that debuted in February 2023. at What is ChatGPT and why does it matter? Here’s what you need to know

AI startup OpenAI launched ChatGPT on November 30, 2022. OpenAI has also developed DALL-E 2 and DALL-E 3, popular AI image generators, and Whisper, an automatic speech recognition system.

OpenAI owns ChatGPT. Microsoft is a major investor in OpenAI thanks to multiyear, multi-billion dollar investments. Elon Musk was an investor when OpenAI was first founded in 2015, but has since completely severed ties with the startup and created his own AI chatbot, Grok.

On April 1, 2024, OpenAI stopped requiring you to log in to use ChatGPT. Now, you can access ChatGPT simply by visiting chat.openai.com. You can also access ChatGPT via an app on your iPhone or Android device.

Once you visit the site, you can start chatting away with ChatGPT. A great way to get started is by asking a question, similar to what you would do with Google. You can ask as many questions as you’d like.

Also: ChatGPT no longer requires a login, but you might want one anyway. Here’s why

Creating an OpenAI account still has some benefits, such the ability to save and review your chat history and obtain personalized instructions. OpenAI account creation is simple and completely free. You may even use your Google account to log in. at What is ChatGPT and why does it matter? Here’s what you need to know

For step-by-step instructions, check out ZDNET’s guide on how to start using ChatGPT.


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ChatGPT is free to use, regardless of what you use it for, including writing, coding, and much more.

There is a subscription option, ChatGPT Plus, that users can take advantage of that costs $20/month. The paid subscription model guarantees users extra perks, such as priority access to GPT-4o and the latest upgrades.

Also: ChatGPT vs ChatGPT Plus: Is it worth the subscription fee?

Although the subscription price may seem steep, it is the same amount as Microsoft Copilot Pro and Google One AI, Microsoft’s and Google’s premium AI offerings.  at What is ChatGPT and why does it matter? Here’s what you need to know

The free version is still a solid option as it can access the same model and most of the same perks. One major exception: only subscribers get guaranteed access to GPT-4o when the model is at capacity.

The ChatGPT website operates using servers. When too many people hop onto these servers, they may overload and can’t process your request. If this happens to you, you can visit the site later when fewer people are trying to access the tool. You can also keep the tab open and refresh it periodically.

Also: The best AI chatbots

If you want to skip the wait and have reliable access, you can subscribe to ChatGPT Plus for general access during peak times, faster response times, and priority access to new features and improvements, including priority access to GPT-4o. at What is ChatGPT and why does it matter? Here’s what you need to know

You can also try using Bing’s AI chatbot, Copilot. This chatbot is free to use, runs on GPT-4, has no wait times, and can access the internet for more accurate information.

Yes, ChatGPT can generate images, but only for ChatGPT Plus subscribers. Since OpenAI discontinued DALL-E 2 in February 2024, the only way to access its most advanced AI image generator, DALL-E 3, through OpenAI’s offerings is via its chatbot and ChatGPT Plus subscription.

Also: DALL-E adds new ways to edit and create AI-generated images. Learn how to use it

DALL-E 3-powered picture generation is also available for free in Microsoft’s Copilot chatbot. If you don’t want to pay the money for ChatGPT Plus, this is a fantastic substitute.

ChatGPT runs on a large language model (LLM) architecture created by OpenAI called the Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT). Since its launch, the free version of ChatGPT ran on a fine-tuned model in the GPT-3.5 series until May 2024, when the startup upgraded the model to GPT-4o.  at What is ChatGPT and why does it matter? Here’s what you need to know

Also: Here’s a deep dive into how ChatGPT works

With a subscription to ChatGPT Plus, you can access GPT-3.5, GPT-4, or GPT-4o. Plus, users also have the added perk of priority access to GPT-4o, even when it is at capacity, while free users get booted down to GPT-3.5.

Generative AI models of this type are trained on vast amounts of information from the internet, including websites, books, news articles, and more. at What is ChatGPT and why does it matter? Here’s what you need to know

As mentioned above, the last three letters in ChatGPT’s namesake stand for Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT), a family of large language models created by OpenAI that uses deep learning to generate human-like, conversational text.

Also: What does GPT stand for? Understanding GPT 3.5, GPT 4, GPT-4 Turbo, and more

The “Chat” part of the name is simply a callout to its chatting capabilities.

ChatGPT is a language model created to converse with the end user. A search engine indexes web pages on the internet to help users find information. One is not better than the other, as each suit different purposes.

When searching for as much up-to-date, accurate information as you can access, your best bet is a search engine. It will provide you with pages upon pages of sources you can peruse.

Also: The best AI search engines of 2024: Google, Perplexity, and more

As of May, the free version of ChatGPT can get responses from both the GPT-4o model and the web. It will only pull its answer from, and ultimately list, a handful of sources, as opposed to showing nearly endless search results.

For example, I used GPT-4o to answer, “What is the weather today in San Francisco?” The response told me it searched four sites and provided links to them.  at What is ChatGPT and why does it matter? Here’s what you need to know

If you are looking for a platform that can explain complex topics in an easy-to-understand manner, then ChatGPT might be what you want. If you want the best of both worlds, there are plenty of AI search engines on the market that combine both.

Despite its impressive capabilities, ChatGPT still has limitations. Users sometimes need to reword questions multiple times for ChatGPT to understand their intent. A bigger limitation is a lack of quality in responses, which can sometimes be plausible-sounding but are verbose or make no practical sense.

Instead of asking for clarification on ambiguous questions, the model guesses what your question means, which can lead to poor responses. Generative AI models are also subject to hallucinations, which can result in inaccurate responses.

As mentioned above, ChatGPT, like all language models, has limitations and can give nonsensical answers and incorrect information, so it’s important to double-check the data it gives you.

Also: 8 ways to reduce ChatGPT hallucinations

OpenAI recommends that you provide feedback on what ChatGPT generates by using the thumbs-up and thumbs-down buttons to improve its underlying model. You can even join the startup’s Bug Bounty program, which offers up to $20,000 for reporting security bugs and safety issues. at What is ChatGPT and why does it matter? Here’s what you need to know

AI systems like ChatGPT can and do reject inappropriate requests. The AI assistant can identify inappropriate submissions to prevent the generation of unsafe content.

Also: 6 things ChatGPT can’t do (and another 20 it refuses to do)

These submissions include questions that violate someone’s rights, are offensive, are discriminatory, or involve illegal activities. The ChatGPT model can also challenge incorrect premises, answer follow-up questions, and even admit mistakes when you point them out.

These guardrails are important. AI models can generate advanced, realistic content that can be exploited by bad actors for harm, such as spreading misinformation about public figures and influencing elections.

Although some people use ChatGPT for elaborate functions, such as writing code or even malware, you can use ChatGPT for more mundane activities, such as having a friendly conversation.

Also: Do you like asking ChatGPT questions? You could get paid (a lot) for it

Some conversation starters could be as simple as, “I am hungry, what food should I get?” or as elaborate as, “What do you think happens in the afterlife?” Either way, ChatGPT is sure to have an answer for you.

People are expressing concerns about AI chatbots replacing or atrophying human intelligence. For example, a chatbot can write an article on any topic efficiently (though not necessarily accurately) within seconds, potentially eliminating the need for human writers.

Chatbots can also write an entire essay within seconds, making it easier for students to cheat or avoid learning how to write properly. This even led some school districts to block access when ChatGPT initially launched.

Also: Generative AI can be the academic assistant an underserved student needs

Now, not only have many of those schools decided to unblock the technology, but some higher education institutions have been catering their academic offerings to AI-related coursework.

Another concern with AI chatbots is the possible spread of misinformation. ChatGPT itself says: “My responses are not intended to be taken as fact, and I always encourage people to verify any information they receive from me or any other source.” OpenAI also notes that ChatGPT sometimes writes “plausible-sounding but incorrect or nonsensical answers.”

Also: Microsoft and OpenAI detect and disrupt nation-state cyber threats that use AI, report shows

Lastly, there are ethical concerns regarding the information ChatGPT was trained on, since the startup scraped the internet to train the chatbot.

It also automatically uses people’s interactions with the free version of the chatbot to further train its models, raising privacy concerns. OpenAI lets you turn off training in ChatGPT’s settings.

Yes, sort of. OpenAI scraped the internet to train ChatGPT. Therefore, the technology’s knowledge is influenced by other people’s work. Since there is no guarantee that when OpenAI outputs its answers it is entirely original, the chatbot may regurgitate someone else’s work in your answer, which is considered plagiarism.

Concerns about students using AI to cheat mean the need for a ChatGPT text detector is becoming more evident.  at What is ChatGPT and why does it matter? Here’s what you need to know

In January 2023, OpenAI released a free tool to target this problem. Unfortunately, OpenAI’s “classifier” tool could only correctly identify 26% of AI-written text with a “likely AI-written” designation. Furthermore, it provided false positives 9% of the time, incorrectly identifying human-written work as AI-produced.

The tool performed so poorly that, six months after being released, OpenAI it shut down “due to its low rate of accuracy.” Despite the tool’s failure, the startup claims to be researching more effective techniques for AI text identification.

Also: OpenAI unveils text-to-video model and the results are astonishing

There are several AI detectors available on the market, such as the Content at Scale AI Content Detection tool, Writer AI Content Detector, and GPT-2 Output Detector. ZDNET tested these tools, and the findings were disappointing: each of the three was shown to be a faulty source of AI detection, frequently returning false negatives. These are ZDNET’s complete test findings. at What is ChatGPT and why does it matter? Here’s what you need to know

Although tools aren’t sufficient for detecting ChatGPT-generated writing, a study shows that humans could detect AI-written text by looking for politeness. The study’s results indicate that ChatGPT’s writing style is extremely polite. And unlike humans, it cannot produce responses that include metaphors, irony, or sarcasm.

One of the major risks when using generative AI models is that they become more intelligent by being trained on user inputs. Therefore, when familiarizing yourself with how to use ChatGPT, you might wonder if your specific conversations will be used for training and, if so, who can view your chats.

Also: This ChatGPT update fixed one of my biggest productivity issues with the AI chatbot

OpenAI will use your conversations with the free chatbot to automatically training data to refine its models. You can opt out of the startup using your data for model training by clicking on the question mark in the bottom left-hand corner, Settings, and turning off “Improve the model for everyone.”

GPT-4 is OpenAI’s language model that is much more advanced than its predecessor, GPT-3.5. Users can access GPT-4 by subscribing to ChatGPT Plus for $20 per month or using Microsoft’s Copilot. at What is ChatGPT and why does it matter? Here’s what you need to know

Also: What does GPT stand for? Understanding GPT-3.5, GPT-4, and more

GPT-4 has advanced intellectual capabilities, meaning it outperforms GPT-3.5 in a series of simulated benchmark exams. The newer model also supposedly produces fewer hallucinations.

GPT-4o is OpenAI’s latest, fastest, and most advanced flagship model. As the name implies, it has the same intelligence as GPT-4. However, the “o” in the title stands for “omni,” referring to its multimodal capabilities, which allow it to understand text, audio, image, and video inputs and output text, audio, and image outputs.

Also: 6 ways OpenAI just supercharged ChatGPT for free users

The model is 50% cheaper in the API than GPT-4 Turbo while still matching its English and coding capabilities and outperforming it in non-English languages, vision, and audio understanding — a big win for developers.

Although ChatGPT gets the most buzz, other options are just as good — and might even be better suited to your needs. ZDNET has created a list of the best chatbots, which have all been tested by us and show which tool is best for your requirements.

Also: 4 things Claude AI can do that ChatGPT can’t

Despite ChatGPT’s extensive abilities, there are major downsides to the AI chatbot. If you want to try the technology, there are plenty of other options: Copilot, Claude, Perplexity, Jasper, and more.

Yes, ChatGPT is capable of passing a series of benchmark exams. A professor at Wharton, the University of Pennsylvania’s business school, used ChatGPT to take an MBA exam and the results were quite impressive.  at What is ChatGPT and why does it matter? Here’s what you need to know

ChatGPT not only passed the exam, but the tool scored between a B- and a B. The professor, Christian Terwiesch, was impressed at its basic operations management, process analysis questions, and explanations.

OpenAI also tested the chatbot’s ability to pass benchmark exams. Although ChatGPT could pass many of these benchmark exams, its scores were usually in the lower percentile. However, with GPT-4, ChatGPT can score much higher.

For example, ChatGPT using GPT-3.5 scored in the lower 10th percentile of a simulated Bar Exam, while GPT-4 scored in the top 10th percentile. You can see more examples from OpenAI in the chart below.

Plugins allowed ChatGPT to connect to third-party applications, including access to real-time information on the web. The plugins expanded ChatGPT’s abilities, allowing it to assist with many more activities, such as planning a trip or finding a place to eat.

Also: My two favorite ChatGPT Plus features and the remarkable things I can do with them

On March 19, 2024, however, OpenAI stopped allowing users to install new plugins or start new conversations with existing ones. Instead, OpenAI replaced plugins with GPTs, which are easier for developers to build.

Users can find 3 million ChatGPT chatbots, also known as GPTs, on the GPT store. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of spam in the GPT store.

Microsoft was an early investor in OpenAI, the AI startup behind ChatGPT, long before ChatGPT was released to the public. Microsoft’s first involvement with OpenAI was in 2019, when the company invested $1 billion, and then another $2 billion in the years after. In January 2023, Microsoft extended its partnership with OpenAI through a multiyear, multi-billion dollar investment. at What is ChatGPT and why does it matter? Here’s what you need to know

Also: ChatGPT vs. Copilot: Which AI chatbot is better for you?

 Neither company disclosed the investment value, but unnamed sources told Bloomberg that it could total $10 billion over multiple years. In return, OpenAI’s exclusive cloud-computing provider is Microsoft Azure, powering all OpenAI workloads across research, products, and API services.

Microsoft has also used its OpenAI partnership to revamp its Bing search engine and improve its browser.

On February 7, 2023, Microsoft unveiled a new Bing tool, now known as Copilot, that runs on OpenAI’s GPT-4, customized specifically for search.

In February 2023, Microsoft unveiled a new version of Bing — and its standout feature was its integration with ChatGPT. When it was announced, Microsoft shared that Bing Chat, now Copilot, was powered by a next-generation version of OpenAI’s large language model, making it “more powerful than ChatGPT.” Five weeks after the launch, Microsoft revealed that Copilot had been running on GPT-4 before the model had even launched.

Copilot uses OpenAI’s GPT-4, which means that since its launch, it has been more efficient and capable than the standard, free version of ChatGPT. At the time, Copilot boasted several other features over ChatGPT, such as access to the internet, knowledge of current information, and footnotes. at What is ChatGPT and why does it matter? Here’s what you need to know

But OpenAI enhanced the GPT-4o version of its chatbot, which was available for free, in May 2024. Users now have access to GPT-4 level intelligence and can utilize ChatGPT to retrieve responses from the web. Use GPTs, browse with Bing, analyze data, discuss images and papers, utilize the GPT Store, and utilize Voice Mode. Thus, ChatGPT regained its title as the greatest AI chatbot following the update.

Gemini is Google’s AI chat service, a rival to ChatGPT. On February 6, 2023, Google introduced its experimental AI chat service, which was then called Google Bard. Over a month after the announcement, Google began rolling out access to Bard first via a waitlist. Now, it is available to the general public.

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