GitHub’s Copilot Chat, initially available to organizations through Copilot for Business, has now been launched in general availability for all users, according to TechCrunch. This expansion follows the beta release to individual Copilot customers, who pay a monthly fee of $10. The chatbot is now accessible in the sidebar of Microsoft’s IDEs, Visual Studio Code and Visual Studio, and is included in GitHub Copilot’s paid tiers. Additionally, it’s free for verified teachers, students, and maintainers of specific open-source projects.
GitHub Copilot Chat’s features and challenges
Shuyin Zhao, VP of product management at GitHub, emphasized to TechCrunch the significance of Copilot Chat in the AI developer tool market. The chatbot, powered by OpenAI’s GPT-4, is designed to assist developers with various tasks, including explaining concepts, detecting vulnerabilities, and writing unit tests. Despite its capabilities, Copilot Chat has faced criticism and legal challenges over potential open source licensing and IP violations, as it was trained on publicly available data, some of which is copyrighted or under restrictive licenses.
GitHub has not introduced a new mechanism for codebase owners to opt out of training data for Copilot Chat. Instead, Zhao suggested that owners make their repositories private to prevent inclusion in future training sets. This stance may not sit well with codebase owners who prefer to keep their copyrighted code public for various reasons, including crowdsourcing bug hunting.
Another concern with generative AI models like GPT-4 is their tendency to hallucinate or confidently present incorrect information. This issue is particularly problematic in coding, as AI assistants can introduce buggy or outdated code snippets. Zhao acknowledged this challenge but noted that GPT-4 performs better against hallucinations compared to previous models. GitHub has implemented features to mitigate exploits, such as filters for insecure code patterns, but emphasizes the need for human review of AI-suggested code.
GitHub’s Copilot faces competition from Amazon’s CodeWhisperer and other startups like Magic, Tabnine, Codegen, and Laredo, as well as open-source models like Meta’s Code Llama and Hugging Face’s and ServiceNow’s StarCoder. The financial sustainability of Copilot remains a challenge, with reports indicating that it loses an average of $20 per month per user due to the high costs of running AI models.