ChatGPT’s Growth Is Flatlining

With web traffic declines in five of the past eight months, where does OpenAI’s breakout hit go from here?

AI generated image of a robot

ChatGPT is stagnating. The megahit chatbot from OpenAI has seen declining web traffic in five of the past eight months and is currently down 11% from its May 2023 peak. Its mobile app, meanwhile, is going nowhere fast, with fewer total users than Snapchat added last quarter alone.

The new data, from analytics firm Similarweb, indicates OpenAI’s post-ChatGPT era is arriving faster than many anticipated. Though OpenAI initially envisioned the bot as a demo for its GPT models, it quickly grew into something much larger, leading to big dreams about what it could be. Now, as growth tails off, the company will have to press harder on its other efforts, and ask why its flagship product couldn’t sustain its rapid acceleration.

“As much attention as they’ve attracted, ChatGPT is still not mainstream,” David Carr, senior insights manager at SimilarWeb, told me.

Here’s what the data looks like and what it means:

ChatGPT hit its traffic peak in May 2023 with 1.8 billion web visits, but tailed off during the summer. By August 2023, visits were down 21% from its high and they haven’t recovered since. Some explained away the summer dip as a temporary pause due to students leaving school, but after an early-fall rally, ChatGPT usage dropped by more than 3% in November and 7% in December. In January 2024, its 1.6 billion visits amounted to an 11% decline in traffic from its peak and stagnant growth since mid-2023. These numbers are big, but for scale: Bing, with just 3.4% of the global search market, received 1.3 billion visits in January.

AI growth chart (Source: Similarweb)

ChatGPT’s mobile app, meanwhile, hasn’t taken off. The app debuted with 4.3 million U.S. users in July 2023 but only increased to 6.3 million U.S. users by January 2024. Snapchat, by comparison, added 8 million daily users in the fourth quarter of 2023, growing from 406 million to 414 million.

OpenAI did not reply to a request for comment.

The stagnation of ChatGPT doesn’t suggest an end to OpenAI, but rather an imperative to evolve. The research house, which could be worth $100 billion, introduced an astounding video generation model called Sora on Thursday that shows a way forward. In an ultra-competitive AI race, where Google’s Gemini just equaled GPT-4’s capabilities, OpenAI will have to pump out hits to stay ahead. Sora, which drew rave reviews as OpenAI CEO Sam Altman demonstrated its capabilities on X, is exactly that type of innovation.

ChatGPT web traffic. (Source: Similarweb / Big Technology)

And while visions of a ChatGPT platform — where developers build plugins for users to interact with within the bot — may prove elusive, the central GPT technology is still core to OpenAI’s business. The company has sold access to GPT models to enterprises — netting some $2 billion in annualized revenue — to enable them to build smaller, use-case specific bots and features like natural language search within their products. OpenAI is also reportedly developing AI agents, which might take over machines and perform actions like filling out expense reports, a major push that could maximize its current technology’s value.

As OpenAI’s models get better, ChatGPT will also get better, giving it a chance to grow over time. The company is currently working on a fix to one of the most frustrating aspects of ChatGPT — its goldfish memory — by building in better recall capabilities. Not having to teach the bot who you are after each login should be a relief to power users.

Big, general purpose chatbots might also just have a ceiling as a user interface, something that’s loomed over ChatGPT from the start. OpenAI should be fine if this is the limit, but certainly disappointed if its revolutionary application can’t push beyond the current threshold.


5 responses to “ChatGPT’s Growth Is Flatlining”

  1. Spencer Bentley Avatar

    ChatGPT was not taking new users for months due to a lack of GPU hardware… lack of growth is a hilarious conclusion from a product that had to close it new signups to allow for more hardware to be added.

  2. James Han Avatar
    James Han

    You definitely lost me when you started comparing ChatGPT growth to Snapchat. That’s the epitome of reaching. Different use case, different users, etc. They are simply not the same product

  3. m. Avatar

    Important Note: CHATGPT is simply not as good as it was 6 months ago due to additional restrictions and limitations they put on their own product. Kind of the USA TSA approach: limit everything and ask questions later.

    This will be interesting to watch how open source models respond to this.

  4. Greg G. Avatar
    Greg G.

    I stopped paying for it because 95% of the time it was unusable. It would simply hang and not response to a prompt. Didn’t matter if it was on the PC or Phone, it just stopped working. It was always a bit slower than something like Claude but did generally give answers that I preferred. Then it just stopped responding most of the time. I thought it was a temporary glitch that they would solve. I started keeping a ChatGPT and Claude window open and finally after several weeks realized that Claude was the only one responding to prompts, in frustration, I cancelled by subscription. I’d like to use ChatGPT and I don’t mind paying for it, but I’m not going to pay for something that I can’t use. I think the issue was mainly with GPT v4.0 chat (other features seemed modestly more responsive). Sadly, the only way you seem to be able to interact with the company is via the non-functioning AI (LLM). Humorously, OpenAI’s main focus seems to be adding more computationally expensive features to a system that can’t currently service even the basic needs of paying customers. I’d expect non-API traffic to continue to decline at least among UI dependent paying customers as they realize the service simply no longer responds reliably. The technology is proven, and the demand is there, but as you observed this is a “research house”, not a business.

    If you are looking for a bit of content to drive traffic, sign up for ChatGPT for a month, set it to v4 and document it failing day after day on nearly every prompt you throw at it.

    1. Chad Avatar

      I’ve been a paying ChatGPT customer for a few months ton get access to GPT 4 and have no idea what you’re talking about. 95% of the time it was unusable for you? In my case, 99.5% of the time it’s entirely usable for me. Not just usable, but it’s just as responsive as it has always been. I enter a prompt, hit , and it starts returning its response within 3-5 seconds. Every time. No variance. Same performance it has always had.

      I’ll add that I use it every single day. In fact, I use ChatGPT to research things for my personal and professional life more now than I use Google. The responses are vastly more accurate and more helpful than general web searches. No comparison anymore.

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