I got access to ChatGPT’s plugins features a couple of days ago. I tried using some of them. Diagram It felt very useful, where I could ask ChatGPT to explain some idea to me with diagrams. I also tried WebPilot which could go through links. I wasn’t too impressed by the other ones I tried, but it was intriguing to see in the list plugins for companies that could directly provide services from the chat interface (such as restaurant reservation, house brokering, fashion shopping, domain registration, etc.). I could see that it’s not such a bad UI for end users. They can type (speak?) in natural language and get the results they want without navigating through complex UIs. This reminds of Google Actions (and corresponding APIs in Alexa, Siri, …) where the interface for users is to speak something to take some action rather than navigate through UIs. ChatGPT is much better at interpreting what the user meant. I had implemented a Google Action back in 2018-2019, which was my first decent hobby project. It was a blindfold chess app and I had made some clever hacks in parsing the user’s text that allowed it to pretend that it was smart and could understand moves said in any one of the many different ways. But it was a challenge to implement it, and it wasn’t perfect. With things like ChatGPT, we can directly interpret what someone meant and encode it into stricter forms. I can see how it can be a very good interface for doing things smartly.

This makes me wonder whether it is the end of web UIs (for mass consumers). It isn’t too difficult to hook up a speech-to-text to ChatGPT, and then use plugins to get our services across. Plugins can do visualization, provide links, and (I anticipate) other richer ways to interact in chat such as choice buttons and structured forms. Sure there are security problems and jailbreaking hasn’t been solved yet, but it hasn’t even been a whole year since ChatGPT was released. When we do find robust ways around it, would the web economy become redundant and switch to plugins? I can already see how specialised plugin developers would be helpful to a lot of businesses. I think I might learn it too.

In any case, the web will surely look a lot different in a few years. Maybe people will use ChatGPT-esque applications instead of web browsers. Maybe there will be bodies similar to IETF that make standards for APIs that ChatGPT and company must follow for their plugins. Maybe there’s something even beyond plugins.