To unlock the consumer market, OpenAI needs apps that don’t look like blank pages.

Generated with DallE

Why did OpenAI launch an Assistants and a GPT Store? Probably because they’ve saturated their initial addressable market.

In February, it was estimated OpenAI had 100 million users per month. Last week, they said they have 100 million users per week. Engagement is on fire, but acquisition may be stagnating. What gives?

My pet theory is that the flexibility of ChatGPT is its greatest asset but also a major UX challenge to overcome. An empty textbox is intimidating to many! It reminds of something Neil gaiman once said:

Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.

OpenAI needs to solve the tyranny of the blank textbox.

Their recent release of DALL-E within ChatGPT took a step towards a solution when it comes to image generation models. Rather than handing your words directly to the DALL-E model, ChatGPT generates several new prompts based on your query.

You don’t have to remember the incantations and phrase books needed to get good results. You don’t have to hang out on the Stable Diffusion Discord and make notes of keywords strings to concur results you may want. DALL-E in ChatGPT is better for nearly everyone than DALL-E, Stable Diffusion, or Midjourney on their own.

A larger step towards overcoming textbox tyranny is launching Assistants (which are basically GPTs focused by prompts and data on specific problems) and the GPT Store. OpenAI aims to foster the emergence of killer apps powered by AI that can unlock new user bases – people who won’t bother with an empty page.

This strategy of outsourcing the challenge is wellworn. The App Store was a key part of the iPhone’s success, translating the device’s capabilities into something that fit both the average person and niche communities. Amazon, Google, Salesforce, and Facebook all took the same approach.

Lowering the price of models and improving features for developers (like JSON mode and adding seeds) helps too. By pursusing lower prices over faster speeds, OpenAI is aiming to drive developer adoption and experimentation.

What remains to be seen is whether OpenAI’s fast-moving, aggressive culture can nuture a platform and the developer community that will make it a success. The challenge with maintaining a platform is the symbiotic-yet-competitive tension between platform owners and platform developers. OpenAI’s aggressive launch schedule and price reductions might spurn developers before the store even gets started.