How to get ChatGPT to browse the web for free

Sabrina Ortiz/ZDNET

At its Spring Update event, OpenAI finally addressed one of ChatGPT’s biggest pain points — its knowledge cutoff. Now, both paid and free users can have ChatGPT pull their answers from the web through its Browse feature, giving the chatbot the most up-to-date information.  

Also: OpenAI just gave free ChatGPT users browsing, data analysis, and more

One of the Browse feature’s biggest perks is that ChatGPT can reference the web to provide answers about current events, which the free version was previously unable to do. For example, I asked the chatbot the timely question, “What is the weather in NYC?” ChatGPT found the answer by visiting five websites, as seen below. 

ChatGPT free web browsing screenshot

Screenshot by Sabrina Ortiz/ZDNET

Another major perk, also seen in the image above, is that when ChatGPT uses the Browse ability, it includes links to the websites from which it pulled its answer. This is especially important for users seeking to verify the information, especially since generative AI tools such as ChatGPT are prone to hallucinations

Getting started is easy, but it can be confusing when you first visit the ChatGPT interface because there is no obvious Browse setting that you can simply toggle on. Follow the steps below and you can get started in seconds. 

1. Log into ChatGPT 

Even though OpenAI made it possible for users to access ChatGPT without logging in, if you want access to certain perks, such as GPT-4o and all of its advanced features — including browse, vision, data analysis, file uploads, and GPTs — you need to sign in to your account. 

Also: How to use ChatGPT to make charts and tables with Advanced Data Analysis

Creating an account is easy. You have two options: You can create an OpenAI account from the sign-in page, or log in with your existing Google or Microsoft account. I think the latter is the easiest option. 

2. Ask a question on current events 

To activate the Browse feature, you’ll find that no setting needs to be turned on. It’s much easier than that!  All you have to do, in OpenAI’s words, is “ask a question in the chat that requires the use of the Browse feature.”

Also: ChatGPT vs. Copilot: Which AI chatbot is better for you?

In my experience, this means that whenever you ask the chatbot anything about current events, Browse will turn on automatically.  For example, when I asked ChatGPT, “Who is currently the President of the United States?” it automatically turned on the Browse feature to index the web for the answer. 

That’s it! Happy ChatGPT web browsing! 

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