The idea of chatbots has been around since the early days of the internet. But even compared to popular voice assistants like Siri, the generated chatbots of the modern era are far more powerful.
Yes, you can converse with them in natural language. But these AI chatbots can generate text of all kinds, from poetry to code, and the results really are exciting. ChatGPT remains in the spotlight, but as interest continues to grow, more and more rivals are popping up to challenge its crown.
This one’s obvious, but no discussion of chatbots can be had without first mentioning the breakout hit from OpenAI. Ever since its launch in November of 2022, ChatGPT has made the idea of AI text generation go mainstream. No longer was this a research project — it became a viral hit, quickly becoming the fastest-growing tech application of all time, boasting over 100 million users in just a couple of months. The power and accuracy of the natural language chatbot is the main draw, but the fact that it was made free to try for anyone was important too.
ChatGPT is built on GPT-3.5, a robust LLM (Large Language Model) that produces some impressive natural language conversations. It is capped at knowledge from up to 2021, though, so it can’t access information that’s based on events after that. However, ChatGPT is particularly good at creative texts, so if you’re asking it to write stories or imagine scenarios, it’s remarkably good. Until it’s dethroned, ChatGPT will remain the go-to option for experimenting with AI chatbots, whether to speed up workflows or just to have some fun.
Jumping on the success of ChatGPT, OpenAI quickly rolled out a paid service called ChatGPT Plus. At the time, it appeared to be a simple way for people to jump to the front of the line, which was increasingly long during peak hours. ChatGPT Plus was more than that, though. Once GPT-4 rolled out, it gave users access to a much more powerful AI chatbot.
Compared to GPT-3.5, this more advanced model has proven to be significantly more powerful than the version available in the free ChatGPT, especially as a tool to collaborate on longer-form creative projects with. In fact, despite how young it is, people have already done some amazing things with it, including programming an entire game from scratch. Plugins are another major benefit of ChatGPT Plus that greatly expand its capabilities, with some of the best ChatGPT plugins allowing you to tailor your chatbot around specific needs, such as interacting with PDFs, making calculations, or even searching the web.
When it comes to the most powerful AI chatbot you can get your hands on, the $20 a month is more than worth it for ChatGPT Plus.
Outside the OpenAI ecosystem, Google has been the first serious competitor to step up to the plate with the release of Google Bard, which is still categorized as an “experiment” by the company. The chatbot got off to a rough start, though, stumbling at answering a question during the demo’s first preview, which was such a bad look that it sent the company’s stock tanking.
Since then, the company has slowly let more and more people into the free preview via its waitlist, even as Google admits that it’s only getting started. Google CEO Sundar Pichai even called it a “souped-up Civic” compared to ChatGPT, while denying the claims that it was trained partially on ChatGPT.
That’s not a great look for a company of Google’s size, but it seems determined to improve Bard and make it a serious competitor to ChatGPT.
Microsoft was an early investor in the rapid success of ChatGPT, quickly putting out its own model based on the same technology. Bing Chat, as you’d guess by the name, builds OpenAI’s natural language generative AI into Microsoft’s own products. Through the new Bing, the AI chatbot is just one click away from the conventional Bing Search. Microsoft’s made lots of changes too, including adding source links, different modes to narrow down your results, suggested follow-up prompts, and even the Edge Copilot, which brings the AI chat with you no matter what webpage you’re on. Microsoft is even continuing to roll out Bing Image Creator directly into Bing Chat, which is a great addition.
Of course, the catch to all this is that you’ll need to download the latest version of the Edge browser. That’s a shame, as are the fairly tight restrictions on how many sessions you can have per day. Still, Microsoft remains one of the biggest players in the game, determined to roll out “Copilot” modes into all its most important products and applications, such as the equivalent of ChatGPT built right into Word or Excel. Compared to the more straightforward ChatGPT, Bing Chat is the most accessible and user-friendly version of an AI chatbot you can get.
Bing Chat and Google Bard are direct alternatives to ChatGPT, but PerplexityAI does something entirely different. It’s a chatbot, yes, but it adds an interesting social element. Not only can you ask any question or give PerplexityAI any prompt, but you can also discover popular searches and “threads” that give you a pretty good idea of what’s going on in the world at the moment. Think of it like Google Trends being integrated directly into Google Search — all upgraded by AI.
Speaking of AI, PerplexityAI uses GPT-3, so while it’s not as accurate or powerful as ChatGPT, it does have a legitimate LLM (large language model) behind it. It also features suggested follow-up questions to dig deeper into prompts, as well as links out to sources for some much-needed credibility in its answers. More than anything, the free iOS app is sleek and easy to use, acting as an excellent alternative to ChatGPT.
If your company or organization is looking for something to help specifically with professional creative needs, JasperAI is one of the best options. It helps creative professionals the most by being able to specify exactly what type of text you’re looking for. Need a caption for an Instagram post? How about a professional email, a YouTube script, or even a fully-written blog post? These specific platforms and formats are what JasperAI claims to excel at.
While professional use cases are the focus of JasperAI, the company also has a free Chrome extension, which lets you bring AI-generated text to more casual settings, such as writing personal emails or Facebook posts.
The initial versions of ChatGPT imagined a completely open-source AI chatbot, but the move to being a privately held company has changed that goal. ColossalChat is a newcomer on the scene that recaptures that open-internet vibe. It’s free to use and available in browsers now, which makes it a solid alternative to ChatGPT when it’s at capacity. It can speak in Chinese and in English, and it can even write code.
But more than that, the open-source nature of ColossalChat is what makes it important. It’s based on LlaMa (Large Language Model Meta AI), which is Meta’s open-source natural language model, allowing for the closest thing that’s currently available to a completely open-source version of ChatGPT. That makes ColossalChat more important for developers and the future of AI implementations, but it’s certainly ready for anyone to just go and try out too.
You.com has been a little-known search alternative to Google since 2021, but it’s also been one of the early pioneers in implementing AI-generated text into its products. YouWrite lets AI write specific text for you, while YouChat is a more direct clone of ChatGPT. There are even features of You.com for coding called YouCode and image generation called YouImagine. All of these programs are based on OpenAI’s GPT-3 models (except YouImagine, which uses Stable Diffusion). That means it’s fairly adept at generating creative text or answering complex questions. Unfortunately, that means it’s not quite as useful as ChatGPT, which is currently based on GPT-3.5.
YouChat also offers extra resources to continue research and links out to related topics, which is handy.
So while it might not be as impressive, if you’re looking for an alternative, it’s close to giving you the same experience as ChatGPT.