OpenAI, a prominent entity in the world of artificial intelligence (AI), has experienced a notable decrease in web traffic in the span of just three months. The organization's monthly visitor count went from a staggering 959.5 million to 780.1 million, representing an 18.7% decline. Such data underscores the volatile nature of online traffic, and it showcases that even AI giants that are backed by Microsoft are not immune to a steep drop in traffic.
These traffic stats come courtesy of SimilarWeb, a digital market intelligence platform that offers insights into website traffic, rankings, and user engagement. With the capability to monitor billions of web pages, SimilarWeb has established itself as a premier tool for marketers, researchers, and businesses aiming to gauge their online presence or assess the competition.
What could be causing this steep traffic decline? One theory could be that users are simply accessing GPT-3.5 and GPT-4 services from alternate sources. Bing would seem to be the most obvious candidate but this does not seem to be the case, as traffic for Bing is down but seems to be maintaining slightly better than OpenAI.
Of course there are numerous AI platforms that are competing with ChatGPT, either indirectly or even by using ChatGPT APIs to offer their own services. For example, users who wish to use an AI writing generator could be turning to Jasper AI. Other notable services that are offering generative AI include the start-up You.com. Nonetheless, even these companies in combination should not be impacting the OpenAI numbers so significantly.
Even Google Bard which was released in February 2023, and Meta Llama 2 which was released in July 2023, still do not have large consumer facing applications that could be siphoning traffic away from OpenAI.
For all of the discussions around OpenAI and the new Bing being a Google killer, it still seems to be the case that users enjoy a search engine that prioritizes linking to websites versus a pure generative AI experience. Google seems fairly unaffected by OpenAI, yet less Bing.
Google may even want to consider these numbers before introducing too many AI features that completely replace the search results page that people have become accustomed to.
Other problems with OpenAI could be the steep price tag. $20 a month for users in North America, and Europe may not seem steep, but for users in most of Africa, and Asia, it may be considered an unaffordable luxury. OpenAI also suffers from a poor user interface. Unlike Google and Bing, you cannot simply type in a one word URL and land on a search bar, using the platform is always several clicks away.
Users may also be exhausted with the following notification for a large percentage of their queries:
While there are ways around the September 2021 training set limitations, it requires the use of plug-ins, a process which is not obvious to users who are not immersed in the world of AI. The concept of plug-ins in itself requires a somewhat technical background to understand, and this additional layer of complexity might be alienating a large segment of society.
Ultimately, it could simply be that with all of the hype around Generative AI, that it was inevitable that there would be a drop in interest and traffic. After all, according to Amara's Law, “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.” The rules for AI are no different, the state of the industry is exponentially growing according to Ray Kurzweil's Law of Accelerating Returns, and this short-term traffic dip could be meaningless in the larger context of how AI will transform society.
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