Everyone and their grandmother knew that Google’s main focus at I/O 2023 would be AI, and that’s precisely what happened. But that’s also why Microsoft took early action in early May to unveil new GPT-4 features ahead of Google’s big developer event. Among other things, Microsoft announced that Bing Chat would be available without a waitlist, which meant anyone with a Microsoft account could access ChatGPT’s GPT-4 upgrade immediately, free of charge.
But there still was one caveat there. You had to get a Microsoft account and sign in to use the best version of ChatGPT there is.
Fast-forward to mid-May and Microsoft is finally doing away with the mandatory account sign-in. This is the one feature I was waiting for. I can access GPT-4 for free via Bing Chat, although one big caveat remains.
Why using Bing Chat GPT-4 without a Microsoft account is important
We’re still in the early days of generative AI products, and I’m one of the many ChatGPT users with privacy concerns. OpenAI has just started allowing users to prevent their data from reaching the ChatGPT servers and training the AI, although the implementation is hardly perfect.
Microsoft has privacy settings in place for its various products, Bing Chat included. But the company also collects plenty of user data. And Microsoft wants to show ads in Bing Chat.
Not to mention that making GPT-4 free without a waitlist is a great way to convince more people to get a Microsoft account.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t get a Microsoft account, don’t get me wrong. Many people already have one, especially if they’re on Windows. Or if they use any of Microsoft’s Office productivity apps.
I just think that generative AI products like ChatGPT should have strong privacy policies in place. Policies like allowing unauthenticated Bing Chat access. Because that also gets us closer to incognito GPT-4 access, which should be a feature these generative AI products should offer down the road.
There are some limitations if you don’t log in
On the same note, I know there’s no such thing as free software. And Big Chat is available for free to anyone right now. The drawbacks are simple. You either get a Microsoft account and log in, or you take advantage of the limited unauthenticated GPT-4 chats Microsoft is ready to support.
For the time being, you get five chats per session. That comes directly from Microsoft’s Bing vice president Michael Schechter.
Access to five chat turns per session should be enough to get a taste of what GPT-4 can do. It might be more than enough if you’re still not using ChatGPT as much as others.
I you want, you can get a Microsoft account and raise the Bing Chat turns to 20 per session if you need more access.
Again, there’s no such thing as free software. But it’s great that Bing Chat offers free access to GPT-4 without a Microsoft account.
Finally, I’ll point out that OpenAI sells ChatGPT Plus subscriptions for $20/month, which opens the doors to a full GPT-4 experience in your browser. One that won’t require Bing Chat or a Microsoft account.