June 25, 2024

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Baidu CEO Robin Li says number of users has doubled since December.

China’s Baidu has announced that “Ernie Bot”, its rival to ChatGPT, has racked up more than 200 million users, roughly double as many as in December.

Baidu CEO Robin Li also said Ernie Bot’s application programming interface (API) is being used 200 million times every day, meaning the chatbot was requested by its user to conduct tasks that many times a day.

The number of enterprise clients for the chatbot reached 85,000, Li said at a conference in Shenzhen on Tuesday.

In February, he told analysts that Baidu was starting to generate revenue from Ernie and in the fourth quarter, the company had earned several hundred million yuan using AI to improve its advertising services and help other companies build their own models.

Last March, Ernie Bot was the first locally developed ChatGPT-like chatbot to be announced in China but it only won approval for public release in August, becoming one of the first eight AI chatbots Beijing authorised.

Unlike many other countries, China requires companies to obtain approval before rolling out generative AI services.

Recent data shows that rival domestic AI services, particularly the “Kimi” chatbot from a 12-month-old Alibaba-backed start-up named Moonshot AI, are quickly catching up with Ernie Bot.

Ernie Bot was visited a total of 14.9 million times across its app and website last month, while Kimi had a total of 12.6 million visits in the same month, data from AIcpb.com, a site that tracks user visits to online AI services, showed.

And Kimi was growing much faster, with visits jumping by 321.6 percent in March from February, while the number of visits to Ernie Bot grew by more than 48 percent, the data showed.

Globally, Chinese generative AI services still lag far behind their Western counterparts. According to AIcpb.com, OpenAI’s ChatGPT remains the world’s most popular generative AI service, with total traffic growing by 9 percent to reach 1.86 billion views last month.

In recent months, China has accelerated approvals for AI services after highlighting AI as a key area in tech where China will have to compete with the United States. Last week, state media reported that 117 large AI models had received approvals so far.

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