OpenAI unveils ChatGPT plugins, but there's a catch

The new rollout offers around 70 third-party plugins designed to enhance the capabilities of ChatGPT.
Written by Lance Whitney, Contributor
OpenAI in background and ChatGPT logo on phone
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Those of you who'd like to use ChatGPT to play a trivia game, plan a trip, get stock quotes, or find a place to eat can now do all of that and more. OpenAI, the brains behind ChatGPT, has just started rolling out a host of third-party plugins aimed at expanding the repertoire of the popular AI chat service.

In a tweet posted last Friday, OpenAI said: "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."

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Before you get too excited, there is one major requirement. You have to be a paid ChatGPT Plus subscriber, which provides a gateway to early features but costs $20 a month. If you are a subscriber, plugins offer several benefits, including access to real-time information such as news and stock prices, the retrieval of knowledge-base information such as company documents and personal notes, and the ability to trigger specific actions such as booking a flight or ordering food.

The existing plugins are designed to appeal to users across the spectrum with ones geared toward business, education, finance, investing, and personal interests. Using plugins from such third-party providers as Expedia, Zillow, Kayak, Instacart, and OpenTable, you can search for a job, find real estate listings, receive product recommendations, go shopping, play games, and get recipes.

With Microsoft, Google, and other companies trying to cash in on the AI crazy, OpenAI is staying a step ahead with its own service. Promoting its ChatGPT Plus subscriptions is one way to generate income. And for that, the company has to make sure the paid plan offers enough benefits to attract people who would otherwise stick with the free option.

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To try the new plugins as a ChatGPT Plus user, go to the main chat screen, click the three-dot icon at the bottom of the left pane next to your name, and select Settings. At the Settings window, click the setting for Beta features and then turn on the switch for Plugins.

After closing the Settings window, hover over the GPT-4 model at the top of the screen and check the option for Plugins Beta. Next, click the dropdown arrow for No plugins enabled and select Plugin store. Read the About plugins window and click OK.

ChatGPT third-party plugins
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

The headings at the top of the store window let you browse among new, most popular, and all plugins. If you find one that interests you, click the Install button to set it up. Install as many as you'd like, but you can enable only as many as three at a time. To control this, return to the chat screen, click the dropdown arrow for plugins, and select the three you wish to use.

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At the chat screen, type a prompt that ties into one of the plugins you installed. As one example, I entered a request to show me real estate listings for two-bedroom condos in the zip code of 10017. In response, ChatGPT indicated that it was using Zillow to answer my question and described a few different listings matching my criteria. The response also included a link directing me to additional listings.

ChatGPT Zillow plugin in action
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

As another example, this one of something more interactive, I asked ChatGPT to host a trivia game about old Hollywood films. Tapping into the Open Trivia plugin, the AI generated a multi-choice question for which I had to guess the answer.

ChatGPT Open Trivia plugin in action
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET
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