Taking GPT-4 to the Web with WebPilot Plugin for ChatGPT

This reporter never understood the September 2021 "knowledge cutoff date" for ChatGPT, after which the sentient-sounding chatbot knows nothing.

Why not let the thing scrape the web continually to add to its knowledge base and improve its utility? I'm sure OpenAI has their reasons (ChatGPT said they were: preventing misinformation, data consistency and developmental practicality), but it seemed to me a crippling feature. I want info current up the very last second.

Yes, OpenAI recently rolled out browsing and plugin betas to ChatGPT Plus (paid version) users. However, you might not want to let ChatGPT go wondering around the internet all by itself, for security, compliance or other reasons.

ChatGPT plugins are the answer here as at they provide a limited form of web access. OpenAI says plugins "are tools designed specifically for language models with safety as a core principle, and help ChatGPT access up-to-date information, run computations, or use third-party services." They allow ChatGPT to connect to data that it was not initially trained on and interact with other services that are not natively part of ChatGPT's base data.

[Click on image for larger view.] WebPilot Site (source: WebPilot AI).

Accessing "up-to-date information" is my use case, and WebPilot is my tool.

According to its GitHub repo, an official release is coming soon for the open source tool now in beta, described like this:

WebPilot is a free, open source "Copilot for web" that allows you to have free-form conversations with web pages or engage in automatic arguments with other users. Unlike ChatGPT, there is no need to chat or switch pages, and no need to constantly copy and paste back and forth.

The current version of WebPilot is developed based on gpt-3.5-turbo, which binds some common prompts with shortcut commands, requests API, and displays results to manipulate the selected text on the webpage.

I'm not sure how current that info is, but I'm using WebPilot with the GPT-4 large language model (LLM) from OpenAI, the company's latest (and the one somewhat responsible for stirring up all those concerns about dangerous runaway AI).

While WebPilot is offered up to ChatGPT Plus users in the OpenAI plugin store, it's also available as a Chrome browser extension and Edge browser add-on.

An OpenAI Community post titled "WebPilot: A ChatGPT plugin with an interesting backstory" provides more information on the tool and lists these features:

  • Web Page Summarization: Input a URL, and WebPilot will provide a concise summary of the page's content, along with three thought-provoking questions or insights—perfect for editors and content creators.
  • Intelligent Q&A: Ask questions about the web page you're visiting, and WebPilot will provide answers based on the page's content.
  • Customized Tone: Specify your desired tone, such as “Steve Jobs,” and WebPilot will respond in that style.
  • Language Preference: WebPilot prioritizes your language choice. Start with “Bonjour,” and the conversation continues in French.

However, take that info with a grain of salt, as those last two items don't seem to be specific to WebPilot. ChatGPT switches to French itself just by typing Bonjour, and it happily complied to provide a response in the tone of Weird Al Yankovic without telling me it was using WebPilot.

Nevertheless, I can instruct ChatGPT to bypass its knowledge cutoff date with a prompt like, "Using the WebPilot plugin for ChatGPT, summarize the latest news about AI." That starts to generate a response while alerting me that WebPilot is being used with the message "Using WebPilot," which is followed up with the helpful "Used WebPilot" message after the response is generated.

[Click on image for larger view.] WebPilot Used (source: ChatGPT).

To aid with fact checking, you can tell ChatGPT to list the URLs for its sourcing just by adding something like "list the URLs used to provide the information" to the prompt.

And just like that, you can get rid of those annoying ChatGPT messages such as "I'm sorry, I can't provide real-time updates or news as my training only includes information up to September 2021, and I don't have the ability to access or retrieve personal data unless it has been shared with me in the course of our conversation."

OpenAI lets users Chat with ChatGPT plugin WebPilot online from outside of the official ChatGPT interface(along with all the other dozens of plugins), with the option to provide your own OpenAI API key if needed to bypass the API key limit for the general-access online version.

[Click on image for larger view.] WebPilot Chat in OpenAI Site (source: OpenAI).

Note that some problems have been reported with the use of WebPilot, such as yesterday's social media post titled Let ChatGPT visit a website and have your email stolen, which involves the use of WebPilot. More discussion about that can be found on Hacker News.

[Click on image for larger view.] 'Let ChatGPT visit a website and have your email stolen.' (source: Musk-owned social media service).

Others, however, have put the tool to good use, such as the user "arcanepsyche" on Reddit, who four days ago reported "I got the WebPilot plugin to critique my product landing pages."

"I run an e-commerce site and I decided to see if GPT could use WebPilot to access one of my product landing pages and analyze it for effectiveness," the post said. "It proceeded to do just that, giving me a point-by-point report of good things and things I could improve. I can only imagine other uses in this area! Having live access to the web, even just via a plugin, is a huge game changer."

Some sources say the official release of WebPilot will happen this month, May, so stay tuned while you wait, along with me, for OpenAI's web browsing feature to be bestowed.

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.


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