OpenAI’s ChatGPT app can now search the web — but only via Bing

ChatGPT on mobile can now surf the web. But only via Bing.

Today, OpenAI announced that subscribers to ChatGPT Plus, the premium version of the company’s AI-powered chatbot, can use a new feature on the ChatGPT app called Browsing to have ChatGPT search Bing for answers to questions.

Browsing can be enabled by heading to the New Features section of the app settings, selecting “GPT-4” in the model switcher and choosing “Browse with Bing” from the drop-down list. Browsing is available on both the iOS and Android ChatGPT apps.

OpenAI says that Browsing is particularly useful for queries relating to current events and other information that “extend[s] beyond [ChatGPT’s] original training data.” When Browsing is disabled, ChatGPT’s knowledge cuts off in 2021.

Browsing — which Microsoft and OpenAI previously announced would arrive sometime this year, first on the web — certainly makes ChatGPT a more useful assistant, particularly for research. Prior to it, asking ChatGPT questions like “Who won the 2023 March Madness women’s tournament?” wouldn’t yield anything particularly useful — or correct.

But limiting ChatGPT’s search capabilities to Bing seems just short of a user-hostile move. The business motivations are obvious — OpenAI has a close partnership with Microsoft, which has invested over $10 billion in the startup — but Bing is far from the be-all and end-all of search engines.

Back in 2011, an analysis found that Bing was potentially unfairly serving more Microsoft-related results than Google links. More recently, a Stanford study showed evidence that Bing’s top search results contained an “alarming” amount of disinformation.

Microsoft undoubtedly continues to improve Bing’s algorithms on the back end. But the problem with ChatGPT’s new Browsing feature is, when Bing inevitably slips up, users won’t have any alternatives to choose from.

In other, less controversial ChatGPT app news, tapping on a search result now takes you directly to the respective point in the conversation. That change — along with Browsing — is rolling out this week, OpenAI says.

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