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From corny jokes to job applications, ChatGPT's new store is selling specialized AI software

OpenAI has launched an online store for custom versions of ChatGPT. Some observers believe the new platform has complicated ethical and legal implications.  (Marco Bertorello/AFP via Getty Images - image credit)
OpenAI has launched an online store for custom versions of ChatGPT. Some observers believe the new platform has complicated ethical and legal implications. (Marco Bertorello/AFP via Getty Images - image credit)

Prominent artificial intelligence company OpenAI has launched a new way for developers to sell and distribute their own, custom versions of AI software through an online store, with industry participants and watchdogs saying it could change how businesses and consumers use the technology.

The GPT Store will include personalized artificial intelligence applications, and will let users discover and build versions tailored to specific topics or needs.

The store will offer custom versions of ChatGPT, created by developers who pay a subscription fee to OpenAI.

The GPT Store features custom implementations of artificial intelligence.
The GPT Store features custom implementations of artificial intelligence.

The GPT Store features custom implementations of artificial intelligence. (James Dunne/CBC)

Think of an AI bot that only exists to help with dinner recipes, or with math homework.

Or a program that uses artificial intelligence exclusively to generate "yo mama" jokes.

Jokes aside, those involved say making custom AI apps available in an app store could be revolutionary for the sector, similar to how Apple and Google changed how people interacted with mobile apps when they launched their respective app stores for phones.

"Being able to engage with an AI tool in natural language is a transformational moment in technology, and this will bring two sides of the marketplace together," said Sonia Sennik, executive director at the University of Toronto's Creative Destruction Lab. "I think we're going to see ... ever more innovative tools that are built by folks like you and me, who can now speak to and engage with these models."

Sonia Sennik calls the app store for custom AI programs "transformational."
Sonia Sennik calls the app store for custom AI programs "transformational."

Sonia Sennik, with the University of Toronto's Creative Destruction Lab, calls the app store for custom AI programs 'transformational.' (Scarlet O'Neill/Submitted by Sonia Sennik)

Sennik called the new store an "avenue for accessibility," and said having custom artificial intelligence chat bots available in a mass marketplace will help create a snowball effect, with more activity coming as users and developers are both attracted to this app store.

Opens accessibility but who is responsible? 

"It's going to give people who are not coders the capacity to start producing in the digital world without going out and hiring a software engineer," said Gillian Hadfield, a professor of law at the University of Toronto who focuses on the safety and governance of artificial intelligence. "Wow."

However, Hadfield said trouble looms for mass-market artificial intelligence, as laws and regulations are unclear on who is to blame when things go wrong.

For example, what if an artificial intelligence app was designed to book travel for a user — and got it wrong?

FILE - The OpenAI logo is seen on a mobile phone in front of a computer screen which displays output from ChatGPT, Tuesday, March 21, 2023, in Boston.  White House officials concerned about AI chatbots' potential for societal harm and the Silicon Valley powerhouses rushing them to market are heavily invested in a three-day competition ending Sunday, Aug. 13, at the DefCon hacker convention in Las Vegas. Some 3,500 competitors have tapped on laptops seeking to expose vulnerabilities in eight leading large-language models representative of technology’s next big thing.

At least one Canadian legal expert is questioning who is responsible for the possible errors of a custom GPT app. (Michael Dwyer/The Associated Press)

"So who's responsible? Is the contract valid? Can you get the money back if it bought the wrong airline ticket? I just think there's a lot of questions around what happens to the way our whole market economy works when you have these kinds of agents out there doing stuff in the world, and when you've made it very open access to produce them," said Hadfield.

Canadians already on board

The GPT Store already has multiple users, including Vancouver-based tech company Commit, which has developed a custom app to locate, research and apply to jobs on behalf of tech workers.

Greg Gunn, with Vancouver-based Commit, was on the custom AI app store right away with a tool to help tech workers automatically apply for jobs.
Greg Gunn, with Vancouver-based Commit, was on the custom AI app store right away with a tool to help tech workers automatically apply for jobs.

Greg Gunn, with Vancouver-based Commit, was on the custom AI app store right away with a tool to help tech workers automatically apply for jobs. (Submitted by Greg Gunn)

Commit co-founder Greg Gunn calls the launch of the app store an "amazing development" and looks forward to potential financial windfalls.

"OpenAI has promised to share revenues with the most popular GPTs on their platform. This means that developers like us don't need to worry about collecting credit cards, or charging the users, or doing refunds," said Gunn, who pointed out that the day the store launched, they had the highest number of active users on the Commit platform.

OpenAI initially delayed store

The store is OpenAI's attempt to build on the consumer success of ChatGPT, which introduced the world to generative AI last year, drawing in users with its ability to write humanlike language.

The GPT Store will initially be rolled out to users who are on paid ChatGPT plans, OpenAI said. In the next several months, the company intends to add a way for GPT creators to monetize their personalized AIs.

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI participates in the "Charting the Path Forward: The Future of Artificial Intelligence" at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Week in San Francisco, California, on November 16, 2023. The APEC Summit takes place through November 17.
Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI participates in the "Charting the Path Forward: The Future of Artificial Intelligence" at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Week in San Francisco, California, on November 16, 2023. The APEC Summit takes place through November 17.

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, was in - then out - as the head of the tech company in late 2023. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

The Microsoft-backed startup announced the upcoming GPT Store in November at its first developer conference.

It was originally set to go live later that month. But in December, OpenAI delayed the launch of the GPT Store, citing in an internal memo it was continuing to "make improvements" to GPTs based on customer feedback.

The delay came against the backdrop of the surprise ouster of OpenAI CEO Sam Altman by the company's board, and his subsequent reinstatement when employees threatened to quit.