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Moonshot AI’s Kimi Chatbot, China’s ChatGPT counterpart, introduces premium service for the masses.

ByYasmeeta Oon

May 22, 2024

Moonshot AI’s Kimi Chatbot, China’s ChatGPT counterpart, introduces premium service for the masses.

In a move to monetize its AI capabilities, Moonshot AI’s Kimi Chatbot has begun charging fees for faster response times, joining the expanding list of Chinese AI companies exploring revenue streams from mass users.

The chatbot, known in Chinese as Yuezhi Anmian, has launched new features aimed at providing users with faster responses, as reported by Chinese media outlet Jiemian News on Sunday. The Beijing-based Moonshot AI now offers six tiers of “top-up” plans, ranging from 5.2 yuan for four days to 399 yuan for a year of “priority use,” according to screenshots shared by users on China’s social media platform Weibo.

Kimi Chatbot, which debuted last October, is powered by Moonshot AI’s proprietary Kimi large language model (LLM). This chatbot has been seen as China’s answer to ChatGPT, developed by Microsoft-backed start-up OpenAI. LLMs are the backbone technology for training generative AI services like ChatGPT, enabling them to process and generate human-like text based on user prompts.

In March, Kimi Chatbot announced a significant upgrade, claiming it could process up to two million Chinese characters in a single prompt, a substantial increase from the previous version’s 200,000-character limit. However, the rapid surge in user numbers soon led to technical glitches, overwhelming the system with excessive prompts. On March 21, both the Kimi app and website experienced hours-long outages due to “overload” issues, according to local media reports.

To address these challenges and manage the increased demand, the latest top-up service promises to “prioritize the inference computing power” for paying users during peak hours when computing resources are stretched thin, as stated in the company’s payment agreement.

The high costs associated with training and operating AI tools, which can run into tens of millions of dollars, have prompted companies to explore various business models to generate revenue from consumers.

AI CompanyProductMonthly FeeFeatures
OpenAIChatGPTUS$20 (RM93)Unlimited prompts, early access to new features
BaiduErnie Bot 4.059.9 yuan (RM39.56)Higher-resolution image generation for text-to-image function
Moonshot AIKimi Chatbot5.2 yuan (RM3.43) to 399 yuan (RM263)Faster response times, priority computing power

OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which is not accessible to users in China and Hong Kong, charges US$20 (RM93) per month for unlimited prompts and early access to new features. In contrast, Baidu’s Ernie Bot became the first chatbot in China to charge for public use. Starting from last November, it has charged 59.9 yuan (RM39.56) per month for a single-month membership for Ernie Bot 4.0, which offers higher-resolution image generation for its text-to-image function. Baidu’s Ernie Bot 3.5 remains free for public use.

Of the approximately 200 China-developed LLMs currently available, only a few focus on generating revenue directly from consumers. Most LLM providers charge corporate customers and developers based on their use of the LLMs’ application programming interfaces (APIs).

Recently, TikTok owner ByteDance commercially launched a batch of its Doubao LLMs, with the Doubao Pro LLM priced as low as 0.0008 yuan per 1,000-token prompt, according to a company statement. In AI terminology, a token is a fundamental unit of data processed by algorithms, with 1,000 tokens roughly equating to 750 English words.

Similarly, Alibaba Group Holding’s Qwen-72b-chat LLM charges 0.02 yuan for every 1,000 tokens. Some of its other LLMs, including the Qwen1.5-110b-chat and Qwen1.5-32b-chat, are currently free of charge for a limited time. It’s worth noting that Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

Key Highlights
  • New Pricing Strategy: Kimi Chatbot introduces paid tiers for faster responses, ranging from 5.2 yuan to 399 yuan.
  • Enhanced Capabilities: Major upgrade allows processing of up to two million Chinese characters per prompt.
  • Technical Challenges: System outages due to rapid user growth and overwhelming prompts.
  • Revenue Models: Diverse pricing strategies across AI companies, with few focused on consumer payments.

As Moonshot AI and other Chinese AI companies continue to refine their business models, the landscape of AI monetization in China is poised for further evolution, balancing technical capabilities with sustainable revenue generation strategies.

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Featured Image courtesy of DALL-E by ChatGPT

Yasmeeta Oon

Just a girl trying to break into the world of journalism, constantly on the hunt for the next big story to share.

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