There have been several reactions to OpenAI opening up plugins for ChatGPT — people have been marveling at how it could make several companies obsolete, the new use-cases it could unlock, or even how OpenAI is transforming itself from a product into being a platform. But an expert has described it in pretty evocative terms — a text-based OS.
Jack Hack, the former CEO of Mira AI, has said ChatGPT with its plugins is “excitingly close to a text-based OS”. “It’s immediately apparent that this is the best channel for an impressive set of AI applications. Several talented folks I know are dropping everything to focus on this exclusively,” he wrote in a Twitter thread.
“This is excitingly close to a text-based OS. From a user perspective, it makes sense that you’d centralize all your text-based activities in a single chat bar. And there are so many applications that will fit within this paradigm of toolformer-in-a-chat,” he added.
“This is riding an emerging trend that we’re all starting to realize: Toolformer-style interaction with GPT-4 agents is *really good*, and surprisingly flexible, across many domains. Plugins would not work well with GPT-3-level agents. Now they suddenly more viable. Incoming apps I’m excited about include Software/coding, Enterprise search, Q&A, E-commerce, Classroom instruction, Messaging & corporate comms, etc. It feels like now, entire businesses can be built behind a set of APIs. A new business shape is born,” Hack said.
Hack also said that the conditions were in place for startups to build their ChatGPT plugins. “The incentive for startups to build here is huge. Distribution is going to be immense and there’s a relatively level playground when competing with incumbents. Best interaction methods are not yet known; iteration velocity of startups will be valuable,” he wrote.
Hack says that OpenAI won’t have it easy. “Challenge for OpenAI is to create a set of UI tools and a dev experience that allows people to make flexible, useful apps. For example, they will need to nail the following: – Handling third-party auth – Single-tap mechanisms – Richer text display (e.g. code diffs),” he says. However, it’s not as though OpenAI will end up taking over the entire space, and that of thousands of smaller startups. “Interestingly, this move doesn’t imply we’re headed to an OpenAI-takes-all scenario: Integrations with OpenAI aren’t exclusive. By getting integrated platforms to build APIs w/ a standard schema, they’ve made it much easier for third parties to build independent “clients”,” he says.
It’s an astute analysis, and succinctly captures the impact that plugins added on to ChatGPT can cause. But the framing of these plugins as a text-based OS is even more interesting. There have been several quantum shifts in computing. GUIs turned computers into household machines; the simple mouse made computers much more accessible and user-friendly. The iPhone heralded a whole new wave of development, and changed how people interact with technology. It’s still early days, but powerful text-based commands — as seen in ChatGPT with their plugins — could be yet another quantum jump in the history of computing.