ChatGPT just became the fastest-growing 'app' of all time

ChatGPT user numbers are growing faster than TikTok's viral rise.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
Image: Getty Images

The AI ChatGPT has been a surprise sensation, even rattling Google due to its fast-rising popularity -- and now analysts at Swiss bank UBS think it is also the fastest-growing consumer app in history. 

UBS analysis estimates that ChatGPT had 100 million active users in January, following its launch two months ago in late November. It attracted one million users in just one week.

Also: The best AI chatbots: ChatGPT and other fun alternatives to try

As Reuters notes, ChatGPT's growth is a lot faster than the nine months it took TikTok to reach 100 million, and the two and half years it took Instagram to get there. In a much earlier era of the web, Google and Facebook took about five years each to reach 100 million users.

Ask ChatGPT, though, and it disagrees with its label as an 'app' and contends it's actually a machine-learning model. 

"Is ChatGPT the fastest growing app in history?" we asked it.

"No, OpenAI's GPT-3 language model, which powers ChatGPT, is not an app, it's a machine learning model designed to generate human-like text based on the input provided to it. GPT-3 has been widely recognized as one of the largest and most advanced language models to date, but it's not an app and hasn't been measured in terms of user growth."

Microsoft, which made a big investment in OpenAI last month, has started embedding GPT-3 across its products. GPT-3.5, for example, underpins several intelligent recap features in the new Teams Premium Microsoft 365 add-on

Microsoft has also launched: the Azure OpenAI Service to provide developers access to GPT-3.5; DALL-E 2, the AI that generates images from casual descriptions; and Codex, the GPT-3-based foundation of GitHub's Copilot AI paired-programming service.   

OpenAI this week launched a subscription service known as ChatGPT Plus for those who want to use the tool, even when it reaches capacity. The paid-for service is available to customers in the US for $20 per month. 

Google is reportedly racing to adapt Search and possibly other products to ChatGPT. The company is testing a chatbot called Apprentice Bard with similar capabilities, but embedded with Search. Microsoft, meanwhile, reportedly plans to use ChatGPT to enhance Bing. 

However, Meta's AI chief Yann LeCun recently noted ChatGPT's underlying techniques are "not particularly innovative", since it relies heavily on the Transformer technology developed by Google. 

Also: ChatGPT 'lacked depth and insight,' say prestigious science journal editors

"I'm not criticizing OpenAI's work nor their claims. I'm trying to correct a *perception* by the public & the media who see ChatGPT as this incredibly new, innovative, & unique technological breakthrough that is far ahead of everyone else," said Le Cun in response

Meta and Google have also developed chatbots, but not exposed them to the world in the way OpenAI has with ChatGPT. LeCun tweeted a graph of AI research output, which had Google and Microsoft at the top and OpenAI at the bottom, noting: "Data on the intellectual contribution to AI from various research organizations. Some of organizations publish knowledge and open-source code for the entire world to use. Others just consume it."

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