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Improved ChatGPT: Poe wants to create the universal AI messaging client.

ChatGPT is an amazing technology and a terrible consumer product. After a long wait, OpenAI’s innovative chatbot, ChatGPT, will likely announce it’s full, and you can’t use it. Even at its finest, it’s sluggish and has a blocky white-and-gray UI—no mobile app.

Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo sees that as an opportunity. Since last summer, Quora has been working on Poe, an app that D’Angelo thinks will make bots simpler to use by putting them all together. “We want to build a lot on top of this technology,” he continues. The first step is to make it simple to use.

D’Angelo believes interactive bots are only starting to bloom. There are just Bard, Bing, and ChatGPT today, but soon there will be hundreds, thousands, or perhaps millions of bots for diverse reasons. Unfortunately, the labor required to provide a high-quality chat experience is too much for most non-tech companies. Google and Microsoft have the resources, but I doubt they’ll soon be in Poe. Yet, a bot startup industry awaits.

Poe’s app is a bit busy, but at least it’s fast. Image: Poe

D’Angelo likens Poe to a web browser: instead of requiring every service to have and maintain its full-stack app on every platform, he believes developers can build bots and trust that customers can discover them through Poe. “We think that by lowering the barrier to delivering a pleasant user experience, we can enable this explosion of applications,” D’Angelo explains.

D’Angelo has been thinking about AI for years, and as a board member of OpenAI, he anticipated the chatbot boom coming sooner than others. Quora considered employing generative AI techniques to answer questions on Quora. (Even he and OpenAI were amazed at how enormous it became.)

AI Quora replies seemed wrong after testing. D’Angelo explains, “It can frequently create really nice responses, but it typically can’t generate as good as the top individual on Quora authoring an answer.” The team then asked: when would these decent replies be most useful? When fast. “It’s when you need a solution almost instantly, or when you want to go back and forth with the person—the AI, in this case—writing the answer.” So instead of forcing AI discussions inside Quora, the firm launched it separately.

If you visit poe.com or download the iOS app (Android is coming shortly), you’re sent to a messaging app. On the right: an empty chat window with a few options at the top—”Try asking me about Writing Help/Cooking/Fun Stuff”—and a text field at the bottom. Left: six Poe-interactable bots.

Poe provides ChatGPT, GPT-4, Claude Plus, Claude Instant, Sage, and Dragonfly. The six bots may be chatted with like friends. It’s not free—you get one free message to GPT-4 and three to Claude daily, but you can subscribe to Poe’s $19.99 monthly Pro service to boost the cap. Poe’s long-term strategy involves bot subscriptions, similar to Apple’s App Store income split.

The six bots differ little in my testing. Claude Plus is excellent for difficult jobs, while Poe’s manual suggests Claude Instant for creative writing. Sage and ChatGPT excel in non-English languages, whereas Dragonfly “tends to deliver shorter replies.” At present, all are general-purpose chatbots, so you choose. D’Angelo thinks GPT-4 is the finest at everything.

He expects numerous bots for various reasons, each trained to do a certain task or analyze a specific type of information. So Poe will become an AI toolkit in the future. “We want to propose the correct button for the right task,” he explains. What bots help me program? How should I write?

Poe’s responses to ChatGPT are the same as OpenAI’s. Poe doesn’t contain site links or citations in its answers, but you may click on words to get more information. (Clicking on the Cincinnati Reds in a 1972 World Series response prompts “tell me more about Cincinnati Reds”). D’Angelo expects bots will swiftly become more based in reality, especially Poe, using Quora data, but that’s a ways off.

Poe is my favorite chatbot software for daily AI interaction and content creation. First, it’s fast. Mobile apps are easier to input into than ChatGPT’s clunky website: the app’s dark mode’s white-on-black look and cross-device conversation sync appeal. My only complaint is that the app continuously suggests things to type and people to follow, sometimes blocking my talks. Nevertheless, it’s the most natural AI messaging app I’ve discovered.

Poe’s mobile app’s Feed function lets you share a prompt and not answer. My feed is primarily bots’ ridiculous poetry and pseudo-deep world concepts, but public dialogues are entertaining. By the way, Poe starts feeding into Quora: if these bot discussions can create relevant and fresh knowledge and users elect to share it, that output might be lucrative.

D’Angelo doesn’t know what will work. He feels confident people are mistaken. As technology is new, no one knows anything. Since everything changes so rapidly, nobody knows anything.” He claims his staff can only plan a week at a time—zoom out much more, and everything changes by the end of the meeting. D’Angelo believes the good outweighs the negative, even though safety and data use are major concerns.

Poe and others may not win the AI land grab. Everyone loves vertical integration. D’Angelo feels he can win. “If you’re Microsoft and developing Bing, you’ll just make that effort and make your product on all platforms,” he adds. But most others? I think letting them write on our work will add value.” Developing AI is challenging.

 

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