Snapchat is introducing a chatbot powered by the latest version of OpenAI’s ChatGPT. According to Snap CEO Evan Spiegel, it’s a bet that AI chatbots will increasingly become a part of everyday life for more people.
Named “My AI,” Snapchat’s bot will be pinned to the app’s chat tab above conversations with friends. While initially only available for $3.99 a month Snapchat Plus subscribers, the goal is to eventually make the bot available to all of Snapchat’s 750 million monthly users, Spiegel tells The Verge.
“The big idea is that in addition to talking to our friends and family every day, we’re going to talk to AI every day,” he says. “And this is something we’re well positioned to do as a messaging service.”
At launch, My AI is essentially just a fast mobile-friendly version of ChatGPT inside Snapchat. The main difference is that Snap’s version is more restricted in what it can answer. Snap’s employees have trained it to adhere to the company’s trust and safety guidelines and not give responses that include swearing, violence, sexually explicit content, or opinions about dicey topics like politics.
It has also been stripped of functionality that has already gotten ChatGPT banned in some schools; I tried getting it to write academic essays about various topics, for example, and it politely declined. Snap plans to keep tuning My AI as more people use it and report inappropriate answers. (I wasn’t able to conjure any in my own testing, though I’m sure others will.)
After trying My AI, it’s clear that Snap doesn’t feel the need to even explain the phenomenon that is ChatGPT, which is a testament to OpenAI building the fastest-growing consumer software product in history. Unlike OpenAI’s own ChatGPT interface, I wasn’t shown any tips or guardrails for interacting with Snap’s My AI. It opens to a blank chat page, waiting for a conversation to start.
While ChatGPT has quickly become a productivity tool, Snap’s implementation treats generative AI more like a persona. My AI’s profile page looks like any other Snapchat user’s profile, albeit with its own alien Bitmoji. The design suggests that My AI is meant to be another friend inside of Snapchat for you to hang out with, not a search engine.
“The big idea is that in addition to talking to our friends and family every day, we’re going to talk to AI every day.”
That distinction could save Snap some headaches. As Bing’s implementation of OpenAI’s tech has shown, the large language models (LLMs) underpinning these chatbots can confidently give wrong answers, or hallucinations, that are problematic in the context of search. If toyed with enough, they can even be emotionally manipulative and downright mean. It’s a dynamic that has, at least so far, kept larger players in the space — namely Google and Meta — from releasing competing products to the public.
Snap is in a different place. It has a deceivingly large and young user base, but its business is struggling. My AI will likely be a boost to the company’s paid subscriber numbers in the short term, and eventually, it could open up new ways for the company to make money, though Spiegel is cagey about his plans.
Snap is one of the first clients of OpenAI’s new enterprise tier called Foundry, which lets companies run its latest GPT-3.5 model with dedicated compute designed for large workloads. Spiegel says Snap will likely incorporate LLMs from other vendors besides OpenAI over time and that it will use the data gathered from the chatbot to inform its broader AI efforts. While My AI is basic to start, it’s the beginning of what Spiegel sees as a major investment area for Snap and, more importantly, a future in which we’re all talking to AI like it’s a person.