Snapchat is releasing its GPT-powered AI chatbot to every user for free, the company announced at its annual developer conference, as it tries to chart a distinctive path between the titans of Instagram and TikTok.
That means expanding access to its AI chatbot, doubling down on the distinction between public and private posts, and paying successful creators a share of the revenue their viral content generates.
First released for paying members of the social network’s Snapchat+ subscription service, “My AI” shows up as another chat contact in the social network’s app. Similar to ChatGPT, users can ask it factual questions, request creative content, and have back-and-forth conversations with the service.
“It really deepens our ability to serve our mission of helping people express themselves, learn about the world, live in the moment and have fun together,” said Snap’s vice president of product, Jack Brody.
Users will also be able to add My AI to group chats, turning to the virtual assistant for any queries that come up in the course of conversation. Paying users will also be able to send photos to their AI helpers and receive completely AI-generated images in return, Brody said.
“The idea is you snap My AI and it can snap you back,” he added. “In the early days, most of the experiences are really just fun and playful, and exciting to experiment with. There’s certainly opportunities to make that a useful feature as well: one of the things that’s been fun is snapping it some ingredients and it can send you back a recipe.”
My AI was criticised for being inappropriate for the company’s young users when it was originally released in March. In tests run by the Washington Post, the bot cheerily gave advice to a reporter claiming to be 12 years old about how to plan a “surprise trip” with their “30-year-old boyfriend” where they intended to have sex for the first time.
Now that the paid trial period is over, Brody says, the app will be more careful about providing age-appropriate advice. “This early phase of the rollout has allowed us to address some of the challenges that have come up, like adding age awareness. In 99.5% of cases, its responses do conform to our community guidelines.”
Snapchat is also introducing new tools for creators who want to use the platform to go viral. In contrast to bigger rivals like TikTok and Instagram, Snapchat’s focus is on private communication rather than public broadcast, Brody said, but new tools will allow creators to split the difference, running a public page at the same time as posting privately for friends and family.
“A lot of other platforms really breed this pressure to to be perfect, and we’ve seen that that can lead to creator burnout,” he added. “What we hear back from them is that Snapchat is a place where they feel like they can be themselves, where they can post without worrying so much about making sure it’s perfect or perfectly edited.”
Almost three years after the company launched its TikTok-style Spotlight feed, alongside a $1m daily prize fund for the most-viewed videos, Snapchat is also doubling down on paying creators for their viral success. Eligible users will need at least 50,000 followers on the app, with 25m views and at least 10 public posts a month, but if they do, the company says it’s committed to helping them build a business and grow their audience – not rely on off-platform opportunities to earn money from their fame.