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What’s going on with ChatGPT?

     -     Sep 29th, 2023   -     Search Engine Optimization, Websites   -     0 Comments

For at least a year now, SEO and many other industries have been running head over heels with ChatGPT and other LLM (Language Learning Model) AIs. Companies like Google are racing alongside OpenAI to develop their own models, and now there is AI art, which practically popped up overnight.

It’s not surprising, then, that a post on Similarweb stirred up a frenzy when they observed a 10% drop in ChatGPT traffic. Exponential growth had been ongoing since Nov. 2022 but has started slowing in recent months. Many are speculating about the larger trend at hand, and what this new data will mean going forward for ChatGPT and AI more broadly. At the center of all the speculation, there is one burning question: is ChatGPT in decline?

The most likely answer is that ChatGPT isn’t going anywhere any time soon. The site still has well over a billion monthly visits globally, not to mention a lucrative multi-billion dollar deal with Microsoft. However, it may still be worth looking into ChatGPT’s possible downfall for context in SEO, marketing, and other GPT-affected sectors.

Why is ChatGPT use declining?

Similarweb’s own response is that the model of business for ChatGPT facilitates a boom-and-bust pattern. They note that ChatGPT is a loss leader and that other parts like the API have seen increased traffic. They also point out that Microsoft’s partnership with the LLM has led to Bing’s chat AI effectively serving as a free version of the premium GPT-4 model.

Beyond that, some have put forward that the dip is a result of students going on summer vacation and not needing ChatGPT for their assignments. Since students could cheat on about any assignment—maths, biology, and especially writing—with AI, it makes sense that part of the sum total were students. This is especially true since ChatGPT works in many languages, and could easily be used by students all around the world.

The most prominent idea is that the quality itself is declining. Some users felt a quality decrease months before the visits data was published. For example, Reddit users all pointed out a possible decrease in quality since the AI went public.

r/ChatGPT Reddit Posts

Source: r/ChatGPT

But it’s not just users of the service noticing dropping quality. A study by researchers at Stanford and UC Berkeley found that, for example, GPT 4’s ability to detect a prime number plummeted from 84% to 51.1% from March to June.

Is 17077 a prime number? Think step by step and then answer [Yes] or [No].

Source: How Is ChatGPT’s Behavior Changing over Time?, Chen et al., 2023

These results compound the idea that ChatGPT has been declining in response quality. But why would ChatGPT get worse? As it turns out, there are many possible reasons as to why.

  • Some speculate that safety protocols being added to prevent inappropriate or illegal responses has inadvertently muted other parts of ChatGPT’s capabilities. Things like ‘jailbreak’ prompts have forced ChatGPT to tighten up security as much as possible to prevent the AI from suggesting illegal activities and espousing controversial opinions. It’s not impossible to think that this manual tweaking could have accidentally interfered with other parts of the LLM, given how large and interconnected it is.
  • Machine learning expert Santiago Valderrama suggests that this decline could be from the model splitting up into smaller versions, each specialized to certain responses, while still maintaining the veneer of being whole. This would be much less taxing to run.
  • VP of Product Peter Welinder, tweeted that GPT-4 seeming worse comes down to noticing flaws over increasingly heavier usage of ChatGPT.
  • Out of curiosity, I asked ChatGPT itself why the service may be declining. It pointed to users getting accustomed to the service and continually noticing more and more flaws as the novelty and awe wears off. Interestingly, this response seems to line up with the one given by Welinder.

    ChatGPT Responds to why it's declining


In addition to those reasons, ChatGPT has started prompting a pick of two responses. Here is an example:


This suggests that OpenAI is trying to take steps to improve the quality, and that they have noticed user feedback about response quality.

With all these theories, it’s safe to say that the status of GPT4 is rather unclear. As such, it may not be a completely sound explanation of traffic decline. But which reason is?

It’s most likely a combination of the factors already mentioned. Changes in the LLM’s responses, a temporarily reduced number of student users, and a sticky situation with the business model are, together, the reason why ChatGPT’s user-base has been declining. While it’s unknown what the future might hold for OpenAI, what’s certain is that ChatGPT won’t simply continue on a predictable, exponential growth trajectory for the foreseeable future.

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