ChatGPT Plus Removes Browse Feature

Browse with Bing could be used to bypass paywalls, cookie consents, and publisher’s ads. It’s been temporarily removed.

OpenAI announced on Tuesday that it has temporarily removed the Browse (with Bing) functionality of the ChatGPT Plus subscription service. This service allowed users to access the internet in real-time by opening URLs. The company states that this feature or bug was easily used to get information from paywalled websites. By just entering a URL (of a paywalled news article, for example), ChatGPT could get its entire content displayed to the user.

It’s understandable why that’s considered a bad thing because the company might be a target of media companies asking it to remove the feature anyway. That doesn’t negate the fact that the Browse feature was one of the most important features in the Plus subscription—Sometimes being exclusively why users signed up for the $20/month plan.

In their tweet announcing this decision, OpenAI thanked all subscribers to help them test the browsing feature.

Apart from breaking through paywalls, in fetching content from websites, ChatGPT also disregards the ads and cookie consents, presenting the information without the publisher’s permission, thereby scraping the text without generating any ad revenue for the writer.

Though the debate of the practicality of paid content is separate from this, it’s easy to see how ChatGPT could land in trouble for scraping millions of web pages without giving anything back to the publishers. The competitors, however, continue to serve web pages disregarding all that.

An argument could be made in favor of these competitors (and by extensions, other tools that do the same—RSS feeds, ad blockers, and browser reader modes, for example), but ChatGPT’s popularity is sufficient to make a dent in the earnings of a paywalled publisher, unlike others.

It has not been taken positively by the Plus users’ community. A post on the official forum is full of complaints from users who relied on the feature to do pretty harmless things.

It’s important to note that the Browse feature was still in beta and not rolled out publicly and that ChatGPT hasn’t completely removed it as per the announcement The company is potentially working toward solving the issue in some way.

By Abhimanyu

Unwrapping the fast-evolving AI popular culture.