With over 100 million users and a rapidly growing ecosystem of third-party integrations, ChatGPT and its new plugins are reshaping the digital landscape. But at what cost? Are plugins the next frontier in digital innovation, or do they herald a new era of tech monopolies and automation-induced job losses?
Regardless of your stance, ChatGPT is undeniably an impressive tool, with the recent launch of its plug-ins marking a significant milestone. These plugins enable third-party integrations through a natural language interface, creating enormous opportunities for brands and setting OpenAI on a direct collision course with Apple’s AppStore and Google’s Play Store.
Although OpenAI cautions that its plugins are at a “very experimental” stage, many observers predict their ability to integrate with third parties will be a game-changer. While much of the functionality offered by ChatGPT plugins can be found in standalone websites or apps, the true innovation lies in their ability to combine multiple services simultaneously through a natural language interface.
However, as with any significant paradigm shift in business, there will be winners and losers. We explore the line-up in ChatGPT's front stretch run.
Winners – fearless first-movers: ChatGPT plugins offer a rare “access and scale” opportunity for first-movers, enabling rapid access to the OpenAI platform and its 100m users. This creates a breakthrough moment for OpenAI, akin to Apple's AppStore, triggering a tsunami of demand from brands who want to supercharge their services with ChatGPT capabilities.
At a recent Ted Talk, OpenAI Co-founder Greg Brockman demonstrated the power of ChatGPT plugins by generating meal ideas using ChatGPT, creating photorealistic imagery through DALL-E, and automating grocery delivery using Instacart. The seamless integration showcased the significant shift ChatGPT plugins bring to the digital world. He wrapped up the presentation by using Zapier to create and send a Tweet about the whole process to his followers.
There are clear advantages in participating from the outset, including securing brand exposure and growing alongside the platform as it matures. Wolfram Alpha's partnership exemplifies this: its plugin addresses ChatGPT's limitation in mathematics by providing robust computation capabilities.
Winners – data-powered brands: As advanced language model platforms like ChatGPT become increasingly commoditised, the competitive edge will shift towards organisations possessing extensive proprietary datasets. While the FAANG companies are obvious examples, it's not difficult to recognise the immense potential in other businesses too.
Imagine combining NHS, Apple Health and 23andMe data to unlock hyper-personalised insights and even opening the door to preventative healthcare measures. Similarly, combining OpenBanking, credit reporting service Experian, and Moneysupermarket data could offer tailored solutions for personal financial management — from tax planning to savings and debt. OpenAI enables these brands to share data in new and innovative ways, creating new areas of growth.
Winners – user experience: With the introduction of plugins which can interact with third party services, ChatGPT is effectively becoming its own app store, paving the way to a one-stop shop for almost any digital interaction. Plugins streamline the process, allowing users to interact with multiple brands simultaneously through a single interface.
ChatGPT plugins are the conduit to next-level user experiences. Not only can users easily explore nuanced information, they can request complex tasks to be carried out, where the system automatically interfaces with multiple external services, moving tasks forward step by step, until the goal is completed.
Losers – tech giants: On one hand, major tech giants like Google and Meta are primed to capitalise on these emerging opportunities. However, the meteoric rise of ChatGPT has undoubtedly shaken their confidence. Google declared a code red shortly after ChatGPT's release, followed more recently by the merger of its Google Brain AI and DeepMind divisions. Meanwhile, Mark Zuckerberg, who famously went all-in on the Metaverse, going as far as changing the company name, has now reportedly become obsessed with the shiny new thing. Some even joke we may soon see another name change — MetAI.
Amazon too has begun setting out its AI stall, unveiling several proprietary technologies and forming third-party collaborations through its AWS cloud platform. For now, Microsoft has neatly dodged the dilemma by forming an alliance of its own with OpenAI through a $10bn investment. Tectonic plates are shifting in the world of big tech at an unprecedented scale and speed. It seems inevitable that there will be casualties.
Losers – the global workforce: The rise of ChatGPT plugins and the automation they bring have significant implications for the global workforce, affecting jobs from customer service to coding. The economic and social impact of this transformation is difficult to quantify, but cannot be understated. Goldman Sachs estimates that 300 million jobs across major economies could be lost due to generative AI systems. A recent Sortlist Data Hub survey revealed that 26% of European software and tech companies plan job reductions as a result of ChatGPT's capabilities.
These statistics are further underscored by bold moves from companies like China's Blue Focus, a $3 billion media and public relations firm, which announced plans to replace external copywriters and designers with AI generative models like ChatGPT. As the landscape shifts, it's crucial to recognise the profound effect this technology may have on individuals, families, and communities worldwide.
The road ahead
With less than six months since ChatGPT's release, distinguishing hype from reality is challenging. Yet, the flurry of activity, from individuals to tech giants, is impossible to ignore. As Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang suggests, "We are at the iPhone moment of AI." While the trajectory appears intuitive and inevitable, predicting its precise nature remains elusive.
ChatGPT's plugins have brought the future into sharper focus, but it is still an area of experimentation with transformational potential for innovation, progress, and our way of living. Brands must balance benefits and challenges like reputational damage from unpredictable rollouts, diluting brand relationships, and managing customer trust around data privacy.
By implementing robust data privacy and security measures, communicating transparently with customers, and continuously evaluating and refining our AI strategies and execution, brands can navigate these challenges and make the most of this rapidly evolving AI landscape.