ChatGPT is a computer program that responds to natural English-language input in a conversational manner. It was developed at the US-based OpenAI lab, using a machine-learning process trained on live human interactions and web forums.

As well as conducting coherent conversations on a huge range of topics, ChatGPT can write at length about a given subject, generate poems and solve simple puzzles and problems. It can even debug computer programs, drawing on its wide-ranging exposure to technical content online.

How is ChatGPT accessed?

Individuals can currently chat with ChatGPT for free on the OpenAI website. However, this service is part of a “research preview” programme, which could end at any time. Free users may have to queue to log in, owing to limited capacity, and responses can be slow.

Those wishing to avoid the queues can pay US$20 per month for a ChatGPT Plus subscription. This ensures access even at peak times, with faster responses. New features and enhancements will be offered first to ChatGPT Plus users too.

What are the business applications of ChatGPT?

Many businesses use flowchart-based or AI-powered bots to handle customer enquiries. A ChatGPT system trained with business-specific information could be ideal for this role, providing fast natural-language responses and assistance for dozens or thousands of callers at once.

Since ChatGPT has the ability to generate limitless text on any subject, it can also be used to create content for email campaigns, marketing materials and even social media posts.

What are the downsides of ChatGPT?

ChatGPT’s output isn’t guaranteed to be accurate: it may generate plausible-sounding statements that are completely incorrect. What’s more, the system has no ability to learn. It can’t look up a fact it doesn’t know, and information provided by the user isn’t remembered outside of the immediate conversation.

Despite this, the technology is already being used to ghost-write school essays, magazine columns and even parliamentary speeches. Some fear that generative AI engines such as ChatGPT will create a flood of unreliable content, leading to a general loss of confidence in the written word.

And in the long run, like all AI applications, ChatGPT has the potential to disrupt the employment market, by replacing human roles with computer systems.

What are GPT hallucinations? And why do they happen?

When people refer to GPT hallucinations, they mean instances when it generates weird, random and apparently meaningless output. For example, if someone asks it about current events then it has the habit of making up quotes. Worse still, the quotes sound convincing. They just happen not to be true.

Fundamentally, hallucinations happen because ChatGPT is searching for patterns — meaning — from a wrong or incomplete dataset. After all, while natural language models such as GPT are trained on massive datasets, they are neither complete nor current.

As time goes on, the hallucinations will become less frequent. In the meantime, don’t believe everything you read.

What is the future of ChatGPT?

Currently the only way to access ChatGPT is via its website. However, OpenAI offers APIs for several other AI systems (including the GPT-3 natural-language model and the DALL-E image-generation platform). It’s expected that an API for ChatGPT will be offered at some point during 2023, allowing third parties to integrate its chat capabilities into their own products and services.

Indeed, Microsoft – a major investor in OpenAI – recently announced plans to add a ChatGPT interface into its Bing search engine, to give plain-English answers to direct questions. Google is working on a competitor named Bard. The first mainstream application of conversational AI may well be searching, summarising and managing online information.

Fore more, read our “What is AI?” guide and our in-depth article on how to use GPT-3 right now.


  • ChatGPT is an AI computer program that has been trained to hold conversations in English. 
  • The system doesn’t learn from its interactions, and can’t check up facts online.
  • A service based on ChatGPT could handle customer support queries, and generate content for marketing and communications purposes. 
  • In future, businesses may be able to integrate ChatGPT into their own products. 
Avatar photo
Darien Graham-Smith

Darien is one of the UK's most knowledgeable technical journalists. You will find him in PC Pro magazine, writing reviews for a variety of sites and on guitar with his band The Red Queens. His explainer articles help TechFinitive's audience understand how technology works.