ChatGPT usage rising again as students return to school

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ChatGPT’s traffic is increasing again after declining throughout the summer, according to new estimates from third-party firms, in perhaps the clearest indication yet that the chatbot’s usage is directly affected by the school calendar in the United States.

Desktop and mobile web traffic to the chatbot created by artificial intelligence start-up OpenAI climbed by around 12% last week in the U.S. compared with the week prior, according to data intelligence firm SimilarWeb. YipitData, another data analysis firm, said that daily ChatGPT usage hit a low point in August, then improved in the second half of the month.

Still, traffic is considerably lower than ChatGPT’s peak in spring, according to estimates.

The recent traffic bump, which comes as school is back in session in the U.S., may revive concerns regarding how widespread ChatGPT use is among students, who can turn to the AI tool to generate code and summarize notes in a matter of seconds as well as write term papers and other assignments. It also raises questions around how much of ChatGPT’s user base is made up of students, who may be an unreliable source of future revenue for the company.

“The return to school appears to be a contributor to the rebound, but not the sole driver, based on our analysis,” according to a recent report from YipitData. The firm studied users believed to be students because they frequented education-related domains, and found traffic from that student group to ChatGPT grew by 21% compared with 8% for users outside of that group. SimilarWeb also cited a back-to-school effect as a likely contributor for the fall usage spike.

A third analytics firm, Sensor Tower, said that weekly worldwide ChatGPT app users grew by more than 10% in both of the last two weeks of August, when a large portion of the U.S. returned to school. The firm said that the increase is also due in part to a jump in the India and Brazil markets.

OpenAI declined to comment.

After launching in November, ChatGPT surpassed 100 million users in two months, according to a UBS report citing SimilarWeb data. But after months of skyrocketing growth, traffic started to decline. In the U.S., ChatGPT traffic dropped by 10% in May, 15% in June and another 4% in July, according to SimilarWeb.

The rise of ChatGPT has forced a reckoning in schools over the technology, with some choosing to ban it outright and others trying to incorporate it into their curriculums to help students learn. While some schools are adopting newly formed guidelines across the board, many are letting teachers decide how they want students to use AI tools in class.

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