OpenAI, the company behind GPT-3, DALL-E and ChatGPT, announced ChatGPT Plus, a new paid version of its wildly popular ChatGPT service.
ChatGPT Plus will cost $20 per month. Users can join a waitlist to receive paid access to ChatGPT Plus. The service is expected to fill out over the remainder of Q1 of 2023.
You can sign up for the waitlist here.
Why is OpenAI Charging for ChatGPT?
ChatGPT shocked both the company and many industry experts in late 2022 when it immediately surged in popularity after its launch, quickly racking up millions of users.
OpenAI was clearly unprepared for the onslaught of traffic. Each ChatGPT question reportedly costs several cents for the service to answer. That means OpenAI has been spending an estimated $200,000+ per day to keep ChatGPT up and running. The high costs of the system are the likely reason behind Microsoft’s additional $10 billion investment in the company.
They’re also likely the reason that OpenAI is starting to charge for ChatGPT, with their new ChatGPT Plus launch. OpenAI has struggled to keep ChatGPT up and running. For weeks, many users attempting queries during busy times were met with errors.
That’s understandable for a free software program that enjoyed such unexpected popularity. But to expand beyond a free “research preview,” OpenAI is likely looking for sources of revenue for their ChatGPT platform. In this case, that means charging a nominal monthly fee for access.
What Does ChatGPT Plus Include?
What do you actually get for your monthly fee? According to an OpenAI blog post, users of ChatGPT Plus will receive error-free access to ChatGPT, even during peak times.
They’ll also get faster response times. The system can currently take several seconds or more to respond to queries, and longer responses can take up to a minute to come back. ChatGPT Plus will likely reduce those times substantially.
Users will also get priority access to new features. No word yet on what those might be, but as OpenAI expands their system, the feature set will likely expand with it.
How Much Does ChatGPT Plus Cost?
OpenAI is charging a fee of $20 per month for ChatGPT Plus. The company will likely also begin charging developers for API access to ChatGPT over the next few months. That will allow more companies to add ChatGPT capabilities into their own products.
No word on the cost for API calls yet.
How Much Will OpenAI Make from ChatGPT Plus?
It’s unlikely that ChatGPT Plus will earn any profits for OpenAI. Even if 10-20% of OpenAI’s users subscribed to the service, that would still be only 200,000 users. OpenAI would earn $4 million in revenue per month.
That’s not terrible, but it’s still just a small portion of the actual costs OpenAI is likely incurring to run the ChatGPT system.
So why are they charging? Probably for two reasons:
- To offset some of the costs of ChatGPT’s expansion
- To keep business users–who are often frustrated by the system’s spotty availablity–using ChatGPT
- To test the model of charging consumers directly from access to the system.
OpenAI likely wants to see if ChatGPT is a “nice to have” or a “need to have” for everyday people. If they need to plunk down money to use the system, will users remain interested in ChatGPT?
Can You Still Use ChatGPT for Free?
At the moment, it appears that OpenAI will keep ChatGPT’s free tier. Be prepared for slow responses and spotty availability, and ChatGPT Plus users’ queries get priority.
ChatGPT plus is a big deal. It’s the first real test that we’ve seen of whether consumers will pay for AI services directly.
Is generative AI a cool plaything? Or is it something valuable enough to prompt consumer to fork over their cash? If it’s the latter, companies like Google should be sitting up and taking notice.
ChatGPT often replaces search queries–if OpenAI can provide a search-like experience–and succeeded in charging people directly to use it–they could offer traditional search engines a real run for their money.