OpenAI’s ChatGPT kicked off what feels like an AI revolution that isn’t slowing down anytime soon. While other big tech companies, like Google and Microsoft, have entered the AI arena, the conversation is still all about ChatGPT. And that probably won’t change after this week, since OpenAI just rolled out two huge features for ChatGPT Plus, which you can try right now.
OpenAI announced Friday, May 12, that they would be rolling out access to plugins and internet access to ChatGPT Plus subscribers over the following week. These two features were previously in alpha testing, and while they aren’t officially out yet, they’re being moved to a more public beta testing period for all Plus users:
We’re rolling out web browsing and Plugins to all ChatGPT Plus users over the next week! Moving from alpha to beta, they allow ChatGPT to access the internet and to use 70+ third-party plugins. https://t.co/t4syFUj0fL pic.twitter.com/Mw9FMpKq91
— OpenAI (@OpenAI) May 12, 2023
What’s up with ChatGPT Plus’ plugins and internet access?
To say these two ChatGPT Plus features are game changers would be a bit of an understatement. First, let’s cover internet access. Previously, ChatGPT was limited to a closed knowledge base (a huge knowledge base, mind you). It knew a lot and could provide you information on a range of topics, but it was still limited to the confines of that data set. If you asked it a question about a topic that took place in 2022 or beyond, it didn’t have any data to work with. But that changes now: OpenAI is giving ChatGPT Plus access to the internet, which exponentially opens up its possibilities. Like Google’s Bard or Microsoft’s Bing Chat, ChatGPT can now browse the web and pull data from the internet when it needs to. It means you can get specific about your questions: You can ask ChatGPT about The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, or about the latest thing Elon Musk said, and the AI won’t have to resort to details from 2021 and earlier. But that won’t necessarily prevent it from hallucinating, so you should still be cautious with the results.
Next, let’s talk plugins. You can think of ChatGPT plugins like browser extensions for Chrome: When you add a plugin, you add third-party functionality to your AI agent, connecting the AI to different external applications.
For example, you can add the OpenTable plugin to ask ChatGPT to look for a restaurant that fits your party size and interests, with availability for a specific time. The Wolfram plugin can answer questions about maths, computation, and data with charts directly in the ChatGPT interface. You can plan a trip, including hotel bookings and travel recommendations, using the Kayak plugin.
One particularly powerful plugin is Prompt Perfect, which rewrites your prompts for you in order to get ChatGPT to spit out the best possible result. Prompt Perfect will take a simple one sentence prompt and fill it with details that ChatGPT can work with. Of course, it’s still best to be as specific as possible with your prompts even when using Prompt Perfect so that the plugin has more to work with as well.
If you’re interested in getting started with ChatGPT plugins, Beebom has a list of their 15 favourite plugins to try.
While OpenAI says they have over 70 ChatGPT plugins ready to go at this time, you can only have three enabled at once. If you want to use more than that, you’ll need to swap out your current plugins for ones you want to use next. That sounds a bit limiting, but it’s probably for the best, since ChatGPT automatically connects to these plugins based on your prompts. You don’t want too many, otherwise you risk ChatGPT accessing plugins you aren’t interested in.
You can follow Howfinity’s video for getting started with ChatGPT plugins.
How much ChatGPT’s new features cost
The elephant in the room here, however, is that none of these new powerful features are free. ChatGPT plus costs $US20 ($28) per month, pretty steep as far as subscriptions go. The version of ChatGPT most of us have used, by contrast, is totally free, so it can seem like quite the jump to gain access to features like plugins and internet access, as well as existing perks like GPT-4. (ChatGPT free only uses GPT-3.5.)
That said, the price hasn’t changed since these new features dropped: It’s the same $US20 ($28) a month it was last week, and now you can connect to the internet and rope in third-party apps via plugins. If you’re willing to spend the money, there’s a lot you can do with ChatGPT Plus now.
You also might need to enable beta features in order to see these options at all. To do that, open ChatGPT, click “Profile & Settings,” choose “Beta features,” then enable the options you want.