ChatGPT can now respond with images and search the web

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, speaks during The Wall Street Journal’s WSJ Tech Live Conference in Laguna Beach, California on October 17, 2023. 

Patrick T. Fallon | AFP | Getty Images

It’s official: ChatGPT is no longer stuck in time.

OpenAI, the company behind the viral chatbot, has officially launched real-time internet browsing for ChatGPT, three weeks after re-introducing the beta version of the capability. But it’s been a significantly bumpy ride.

For the majority of ChatGPT’s existence, it’s been limited to data sets that end in September 2021. When users asked it about more current events, it would respond to the tune of, “I don’t have the ability to browse the internet in real-time.” But one of OpenAI’s goals has been to expand ChatGPT’s data — and search engine capabilities — into the here and now.

In March, the company experimented with a ChatGPT web-browsing plugin for a limited number of users. In May, OpenAI debuted Browse with Bing, but in June, the company put the feature on ice after some users discovered it could be used to bypass paywalled content. The company has been slowly rolling out the feature again, after allowing site owners to opt out of the web crawling. As of Tuesday, Browse with Bing is officially out of beta and, it seems, here to stay.

Also as of this week, ChatGPT can generate images using OpenAI’s DALL-E 3, the buzzy new version of its image-generation AI model, but the capability has only rolled out to certain users in beta mode.

“From a simple sentence to a detailed paragraph, ask ChatGPT what you want to see and it will translate your ideas into exceptionally accurate images,” OpenAI wrote in its release notes.

After launching last November, ChatGPT became the fastest-growing consumer application ever recorded, according to a UBS study, with about 100 million monthly active users in two months. Since then, it’s kicked off an AI arms race of sorts, inspiring tech giants to race to develop new features, apps, and UX experiences to set their chatbots apart from the rest. Two of the foremost competitors in that race are OpenAI, with ChatGPT, and Google with its competitor, Bard.

Earlier this year, Microsoft’s expanded investment in OpenAI — an additional $10 billion — made it the biggest AI investment of the year, according to PitchBook. In April, the startup reportedly closed a $300 million share sale at a valuation between $27 billion and $29 billion, with investments from firms such as Sequoia Capital and Andreessen Horowitz. 

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