ChatGPT Browse with Bing is Back, Albeit a Tad Lobotomized

  • Reintroduction with Restrictions: ChatGPT Browse with Bing returns with enhanced guardrails after initial misuse concerns.
  • Performance Trade-offs: The updated ChatGPT Browse with Bing has more limited capabilities, affecting its speed and efficiency.
  • AI Interaction Tips: Engaging with AI as if it were sentient might yield better results, though it’s symbolic speech.

It’s been a busy week in AI developments: the long-awaited ChatGPT model that can see, hear, and talk began to be rolled out this week (I’m still waiting); Amazon invested $4 billion in Anthropic, the company behind Claude, ChatGPT’s strongest rival; Meta/Facebook is launching AI assistants in its messaging apps WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram. And much more.

Lost for a bit in the wave of news was the return of full internet access for ChatGPT. Called ChatGPT Browse with Bing, we had full internet access for a few weeks earlier in the year, but that Beta feature was discontinued when too many folks started using the tool to scrape (copy) websites and access content behind paywalls. So OpenAI pulled the plug to reinforce their guardrails. And, boy, did they tighten things down.

For folks who had ChatGPT Browse with Bing access in the spring for those weeks, there is a noticeable drop in performance in the re-release of the Beta mode. In the spring, ChatGPT Browse with Bing allowed users to apply the full power of GPT-4 to access and process web pages. And it was very useful.

For one thing, live internet access for the chatbot means an earlier limit was overcome. With live internet access, a model can have access to information more current than its training data. That is, without internet access for most of this year, ChatGPT had no knowledge of events after September 2021 when its training ended.

That advantage and benefit is restored.

But at a cost.

ChatGPT Browse with Bing appears to have been somewhat lobotomized; it might now be operating on a fine-tuned GPT-4 model, which could explain some of its altered behavior.

First, it appears that summaries of webpages are limited to a few hundred words, about 500 tokens, probably an attempt at fair use. You can still quiz ChatGPT Browse with Bing about a webpage and eventually get the results you desire. But the process takes much longer now than it did in the spring.

Second, look at the conversation I had with ChatGPT Browse with Bing earlier today. I was able to have ChatGPT Browse with Bing successfully create a list of genealogical education events between October 2023 and through summer 2024. It got all the details correct. But it took 26 prompt refinements. Admittedly, that means it only took about five minutes to build the calendar of events. But in the spring, it would have taken much less time and effort. I suspect this extra work is related to the guardrails that were installed. (This is the only mode of ChatGPT that appears to be effected; that is, other flavors of GPT-4 remain as robust as ever.)

Third, Reddit user ry4ny speculates that OpenAI has adjusted the presence penalty and temperature settings. As ry4ny notes, these changes might occur once the browser feature is engaged, transitioning the model from a ‘normal’ chat mode to a more restricted browsing mode. They also conjecture that the model might be using specific restart texts, which could explain the consistently repetitive endings in its completions.

So, enjoy ChatGPT Browse with Bing, but know that you will need to keep working to get the results you need.

Having just said that, now is probably a good time for a couple of reminders:

  1. just as writing means rewriting, so prompting means re-prompting (I NEVER get anything perfect on the first attempt);
  2. the AI does not have feelings, so it won’t get frustrated if you ask it 26 times to try again–sometimes that’s what it takes; that is, don’t worry about exasperating the AI, reiterate as much as you need to get the results you want; and
  3. weirdly, for reasons that may not be yet fully understood, although the AI is not alive, you get better results when you talk to the AI as if it were a person (they’re called chatbots for a reason).

So it’s okay to use anthropomorphic language with and about the AI. We just occasionally remind ourselves these are figures of speech.

[LANGUAGE NOTE: Anthropomorphism is a figure of speech. AIs are not sentient. They are not alive. They do not "see," they analyze images; they do not "hear," they process audio signals; they do not "think," they evaluate. But it is okay if we speak as if AIs did see, hear, and think. We use figures of speech to communicate better.]

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