OpenAI launches GPT Store but revenue sharing is still to come

OpenAI‘s GPT Store is finally here — but third-party creators of GPTs may have to wait a bit longer to start getting paid for their custom GPTs, as the revenue sharing portion is not kicking in just yet, and won’t until sometime later in the first quarter of this year.

What the what? How is it a “store” if you can’t make any money from it yet? Well, read on while I attempt to explain.

What is the OpenAI GPT Store and why does it matter?

The GPT Store was announced back in November 2023 during OpenAI’s first-ever developer conference, DevDay, an in-person gathering in its home base of San Francisco for third-party engineers building products and services atop the company’s hit AI models and APIs, including GPT-3.5 and GPT-4.

Since then, the hype for the GPT Store launch has been strong, with many tech experts and industry workers openly comparing it to the launch of the Apple App Store for the iPhone back in 2008, which of course is one of the most successful and thriving digital marketplaces ever created, allowing third-party application developers to sell their iPhone, and later, iPad and Mac apps for whatever price they deem fair — with Apple taking a controversial 30% cut of all sales.

In its current format though, the GPT Store is more limited than even the initial App Store, and OpenAI’s revenue-sharing structure for it remains opaque.

How can third-party creators make GPTs?

To fully understand the GPT Store, you first need to wrap your head around the GPT Builder, a new ChatGPT feature also announced at OpenAI’s DevDay and made available to users shortly after the conference. It has been open to all ChatGPT Plus and Enterprise subscribers ever since.

The GPT Builder, available by clicking the “Explore” tab on your ChatGPT session, allows paying ChatGPT subscribers to type in a natural language chatbot-style interface to build their own “GPTs” — essentially, customized versions of ChatGPT that are focused on a more narrow, discrete set of tasks, such as: generating GIFs, rapidly prototyping products, or analyzing your posts on the social network X and providing tips to increase engagement. We rounded up a few early examples of new GPTs built by third-party devs using the GPT Builder here.

Who would want a more limited version of ChatGPT? Well, many people as it turns out. Already, creators have built “3 million custom versions of ChatGPT” according to OpenAI.

I’ve built some custom GPTs myself, and the appeal to me is that I don’t have to prompt the default ChatGPT with a long preamble about what I want: instead, by navigating to my custom GPT email responder, for example, I can simply paste in the text of an email I get and it will immediately know to start drafting a relevant response.

The idea of the GPT Builder is compelling and plays to the strength of OpenAI’s large language models (LLMs). Unlike the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, for example, you don’t need any software training to build new GPTs through the GPT Builder. All you need is an idea, an internet connection and keyboard to type it out, and a subscription to ChatGPT Plus or Enterprise. The GPT Builder takes care of the rest.

Why does the GPT Store exist?

Before today, people could use a GPT created by another user, but only if the creator shared the link directly with them or posted it online. There was no centralized place to find third-party GPTs from OpenAI’s website.

The GPT Store, then, was pitched as the place where GPT Builder users could list their custom GPTs for a wider public audience to search for and start to use as well, with the promise of compensation — similar to the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

During the November 2023 DevDay event, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman said that the GPT Store would “pay people who build the most useful and the most used GPTs a portion of our revenue. We’re excited to foster a vibrant ecosystem with the GPT Store.”

From a strategic and business sense, the GPT Store marks another big step in OpenAI’s evolution from an AI model provider to a platform, as Kyle Wiggers has noted at TechCrunch.

Hampered by a short but wild delay

Altman also said the GPT Store would be launching later in November, but as those close observers of the company probably recall, that didn’t happen. Instead, shortly after DevDay, Altman was ousted as OpenAI CEO and there was a whole internal political drama to replace him, ultimately culminating in his return to the leadership role and the resignation of the board that voted to fire him in the first place.

So now, two months later than initially scheduled, the GPT Store is finally launching.

Revenue-share coming sometime in Q1 2024, with many details still outstanding

But as OpenAI explains in a blog post today outlining how it works, the GPT Store launch is going to be a bit staggered.

While the GPT Store is live and accessible to ChatGPT Plus and Enterprise users globally as of today to list their GPTs — and for users to search for new GPTs made by others that they may wish to use — at the URL, the revenue sharing mechanism is not ready just yet. Instead, the company says:

“In Q1 we will launch a GPT builder revenue program. As a first step, US builders will be paid based on user engagement with their GPTs. We’ll provide details on the criteria for payments as we get closer. ”

The first quarter (Q1) of the Fiscal year for most companies in the U.S. begins in January and ends in March, so third-party GPT creators might not receive any payments from the GPT Store until March 2024 or later.

OpenAI also has yet to reveal details on how much GPT creators stand to earn from the GPT Store and what exact formula the company will be using to calculate payments: how is it measuring engagement — is it any user who engages with a GPT? For how long? What if I just start using one then decide I don’t like it and close it a few seconds later? Does this count towards the engagement of that GPT? What about if I’m a recurrent user and use it daily — is that measured differently than a unique user’s engagement? Does my own usage of the custom GPTs that I’ve built count towards their engagement? What about my colleagues or team members?

Can GPT creators set their own prices for using or subscribing to the GPTs they’ve built? It doesn’t sound like it. So what is a fair price for using a GPT and how is OpenAI determining that?

Instead of the Apple App Store model, where third-party developers get to choose how much to price their apps, the OpenAI GPT Store sounds more like Spotify, where artists earn money from Spotify based on its formula for paying out money to them per each stream/play of their track by a user.

Also, it is notable that only U.S. GPT makers will be initially eligible for a cut of OpenAI’s revenue (reportedly more than $1.6 billion annually).

We asked OpenAI questions to the effect of those above and received the response from a spokesperson: “We’ll have more information on this soon.”

What the current version of the GPT Store offers

Okay, so there’s no payment mechanism live in the GPT Store yet. That’s unfortunate for those hoping to start earning from their creations. But what does the GPT Store offer so far?

OpenAI notes it contains a “community leaderboard” of “popular” and “trending GPTs,” as well as a range of GPTs organized into specific categories, including: “DALL·E, writing, research, programming, education, and lifestyle.”

So, if you are looking for art and image generation-focused GPTs, you’d start by looking in the DALL-E category since that is the name of OpenAI’s latest image generation AI model, while the other categories would be for those specific types of tasks.

In addition, OpenAI says it will be regularly highlighting “useful and impactful GPTs,” similar to the Editor’s Choice section of the App Store. Its first “Featured GPTs” are:

Personalized trail recommendations from AllTrails

Search and synthesize insights from 200M academic papers with Consensus

Expand your coding skills with Khan Academy’s Code Tutor

Design flyers, social posts or business materials with Canva

Find your next read with Books

Learn math and science anytime, anywhere with the CK-12 Flexi AI tutor

The company doesn’t specify what criteria it is using to pick these Featured GPTs, but clearly, they are all ones the company believes are good ambassadors for the underlying tech. And it is noteworthy that they are all made by companies and other organizations, rather than individual developers.

Therefore, enterprises looking to capitalize on the generative AI boom and get in early would do well to check out the GPT Builder and GPT Store now — even if it doesn’t become a major source of revenue for them directly, it’s a good place to showcase one’s brand and potentially driver users to a more full-fledged product off the GPT Store and on the source org’s website. And with no coding experience required, there’s virtually no barrier to entry — which also means no good excuses not to at least try it out for your brand.

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