Baidu’s Ernie bot jumps to the top of Apple’s app store
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Baidu’s Ernie bot ranked first in popularity on Apple’s app store in China after the Chinese tech giant said Thursday it was releasing its ChatGPT-like chatbot to the public.

A rise of more than 3% was seen in Baidu’s Hong Kong-listed shares this morning.

In another indication of Beijing’s relaxed stance on artificial intelligence, the news signaled a green light.

The Ernie bot was released on March 16 by Baidu. Access was initially limited to Baidu’s business partners and people who signed up for a waitlist that swelled to more than 1.2 million before Baidu stopped disclosing the numbers.

I was able to access Ernie bot without having to enter a Chinese ID number as of Wednesday.

Since OpenAI’s ChatGPT gained worldwide popularity earlier this year, Chinese companies have rushed to announce generative AI projects. The ChatGPT app isn’t officially allowed in China, where access to Google and Facebook is restricted.

However, China’s top leaders have made high-profile comments about the need to develop domestic technology, specifically artificial intelligence.

China’s “interim regulation” for the management of generative AI services went into effect on Aug. 15.

Unless the product was available to the general public, the rules would not apply to companies developing AI tech. That’s more relaxed than a draft released in April, which said forthcoming rules would apply even during the research phase.

Moreover, the latest version of the rules did not include a blanket license requirement, only stating that one was required if stipulated by law. There was no mention of which ones.

Network security and personal data protection have generally been regulated more stringently in China.

Li said the company was “still awaiting a green light before we roll out Ernie bot on a large scale for consumer apps.”