Is ChatGPT Open Source? The Truth About OpenAI

Wondering if ChatGPT is open source, as OpenAI owns it? Here’s why it’s not and what would happen if it was. It hasn’t been long since the AI-powered chatbot took the world by storm and gained over a million users in just five days. It hasn’t looked back since, but plenty of questions exist.

Some of the most asked queries about ChatGPT are if it’s an open-source application and if OpenAI is still a non-profit organization. We’ll address these frequently asked questions about ChatGPT in this quick guide. Let’s explore the truth about possibly the biggest tech revolution of the decade.

What is an Open Source Application?

Open source software is a program provided along with its source code, making it available to use, modify, and distribute with its original rights. Source code is the part of the software that most users don’t see, and it’s only taken care of by the programmers to control how the application behaves.

When programmers have access to a program’s source code, they can change how things work by modifying it according to their needs. They can also fix and improve things within the application. Usually, open-source software contains a license that allows programmers to tweak the program for various purposes.

Is ChatGPT Open Source?

NO. ChatGPT is not open source as OpenAI owns the source code and is not available to the public. The web-based application is built on top of OpenAI’s GPT-3.5 language model, which is also not open source. GPT-3.5 is the successor to GPT-333, which isn’t open-source either.

However, there was a time when OpenAI was a non-profit organization that released its projects as open source. The company only offers GPT-3 API (Application Programming Interface) as a packaged and moderated version of the large language model.

Developers can use the API to utilize GPT-3’s application features and capabilities. However, they can only access documentation distributed with the API and not the source code. This prevents them from incorporating the GPT-3 module into their projects directly without needing the API.

Is OpenAI Still a Non-Profit Organization?

Nope. OpenAI is not a non-profit organization anymore but a for-profit company. OpenAI was founded in 2015 as a non-profit firm by a group of tech visionaries, including billionaire Elon Musk and Sam Altman (the company’s current CEO). The group also included other major technology enthusiasts like Ilya Sutskever, Greg Brockman, and Andrej Karpathy.


It operated with its root concept and worked with open-source projects. However, the company failed to figure out proper ways to monetize its open-source work. By the time it used open source to build up to GPT-2, Open AI had closed the doors and turned to closed source mannerism with GPT-3.

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This happened after Elon Musk left the company in 2018 to focus on SpaceX and Tesla. The next year, OpenAI became a for-profit company with Sam Altman as the CEO. The CEO also tweeted the reason behind this move: “We will have to monetize it somehow at some point; the compute costs are eye-watering.

Elon Musk also shared his opinion on the drastic change in how things work in OpenAI in a Tweet earlier this year. “OpenAI was created as an open source (which is why I named it “Open” AI), a non-profit company to serve as a counterweight to Google, but now it has become a closed source, maximum-profit company effectively controlled by Microsoft. Not what I intended at all.”

Elon Musk tweet

Is OpenAI Owned by Microsoft?

No, neither ChatGPT nor OpenAI are technically owned by Microsoft right now. Microsoft confirmed recently that it has invested a sum of $10 billion into OpenAI in a multiyear deal that will see the software giant become their exclusive cloud provider and incorporate its features into apps and services.

OpenAI is owned by a diverse group of investors, including Microsoft. Other prominent names are Khosla Ventures, Reid Hoffman, and others. Elon Musk is not related to OpenAI anymore. He was among the company’s founding members but left it in 2018 to focus on other projects.

Why isn’t ChatGPT Open Source?

The main reason why ChatGPT is not open source is due to the mammoth computing costs of running the web-based app. It’s built on GPT-3.5, a closed source, and only distributed as an API. OpenAI has put monetization methods in place, which limit the company to operate with open-source projects.

It is understandable why ChatGPT couldn’t run as open source even though it would be the best step for its further development and growth. OpenAI already has a premium version called ChatGPT Plus to offset expenses associated with the chatbot’s operations and future development.

A recent report revealed that OpenAI burns $700,000 daily to run just its single AI-powered service, ChatGPT. It further noted that the company might go bankrupt by the end of next year despite attempts to monetize its GPT-3.5 and GPT-4 language models.

OpenAI is burning through cash; a major part comes from its investors. The company must devise better monetization methods, or ChatGPT won’t be free shortly.

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OpenAI is working on an Open Source Model:

A recent report from industry insiders revealed that OpenAI is working on an open-source AI model due to the pressure put on by other open-source AI models available right now. The for-profit company is seemingly looking to return to its roots but isn’t returning to being a non-profit firm.

A May 16, 2023, report in ‘The Information’ cites a person with knowledge of the plan revealed that OpenAI is working on an open-source project, but the timeline of when the model would be released is unknown. The report further claims that the upcoming model wouldn’t be competitive with its flagship ChatGPT product as it’s one of the key revenue generators for the company.

Alex McCaw tweet

OpenAI faces tough competition from open-source models like Meta’s LLaMa, originally limited to researchers but fully leaked by a 4chan user. There are other important open-source models available, too such as Stability AI, Dolly 2.0, and HuggingChat.

OpenAI & Google Facing Tough Competition from Open Source AI Models

A leaked Google document revealed that the tech giant faces a significant threat from open-source AI models. “The uncomfortable truth is, we aren’t positioned to win this arms race, and neither is OpenAI,” Google’s senior software engineer Luke Sernau wrote.

He added that open-source models became significantly more advanced when Google was distracted by its competition with Open AI. “They are lapping us. Open-source models are faster, more customizable, more private, and pound-for-pound more capable.

As a result, Google recently introduced PaLM 2, a new open-source language model with improved multilingual, reasoning, and coding capabilities. Anyone can use and improve the source code of the latest AI offering by Google, while the story of its previously released AI-based chat assistant Bard was different.

Andrews tweet

Final Take:

ChatGPT is not open source, but developers can still use the GPT 3.5 API to incorporate the language model’s capabilities into their projects. However, they can’t access the source code of the chatbot that has revolutionized numerous industries and sectors with its artificial intelligence-powered features.

We hope you have now understood the basics of ChatGPT’s and OpenAI’s operations. It seems imminent that the San Francisco-based firm will soon roll out an open-source AI model, which will fulfill its only openly known shortcoming to attract more customers and investors to extend its AI capabilities further.

That’s all for this post. Feel free to connect in the comments if you have any doubts or queries regarding anything mentioned here. We’d be glad to hear from you.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: Is ChatGPT open or closed source?

A: ChatGPT is not open source. It is a closed-source web application built on OpenAI’s GPT-3.5 language model. The key reason why OpenAI didn’t make ChatGPT open source is due to the excessive computing cost involved with running the chatbot and the lack of monetization methods.

Q: Why isn’t ChatGPT open source?

A: ChatGPT is not open source as OpenAI built it on the GPT-3.5 language model, which is the successor to GPT-3. Before that, OpenAI worked with open-source projects. However, the San Francisco-based company couldn’t figure out proper methods to monetize its open-source work and launched ChatGPT as a closed source to be able to generate revenue from selling its services and capabilities.

Q: Is OpenAI a non-profit organization?

A: No, OpenAI is not a non-profit organization anymore. It started in 2015 as a joint initiative of Elon Musk, Sam Altman, Greg Brockman, Wojciech Zaremba, Ilya Sutskever, and John Schulman to advance artificial intelligence and incorporate it for the betterment of society. However, it became a for-profit company in 2019 due to a lack of resources for operational costs.

Q: Can you access the ChatGPT source code on GitHub?

A: No, the ChatGPT source code is not publicly available anywhere. You can’t view or modify it and you must get the GPT-3 API from OpenAI to integrate AI capabilities in your projects. A free alternative would be to use other publicly available open-source AI models for your work.

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