Meta and Microsoft advanced their AI partnership by announcing the release of Meta’s latest iteration of Llama 2 and have made it free for research and commercial use.
Both companies say that their intention behind making the advanced LLM available for free is to democratize and promote the advancement of AI. The partnership sees Meta providing their latest large language model LLama 2, with Microsoft hosting the model on its Azure cloud computing platform amongst others.
Making the model open source and freely available for commercial use is a shot across the bow for companies like Google and OpenAI, both of which charge for access to their proprietary models.
Besides their claimed intention to “accelerate innovation in the era of AI”, Microsoft’s announcement also said this move “further extends Microsoft’s open model ecosystem and position as the world’s supercomputing platform for AI.”
Google, OpenAI, and other companies that have kept their models proprietary have questioned the wisdom of making Llama open source, but Meta claims their approach makes it safer.
In Meta’s announcement, it said “Opening access to today’s AI models means a generation of developers and researchers can stress test them, identifying and solving problems fast, as a community. By seeing how these tools are used by others, our own teams can learn from them, improve those tools, and fix vulnerabilities.”
So what does this mean for people wanting to make AI tools? Well, if you used a popular model like GPT-4 to make your own software product you would have to pay for API calls, pay for fine-tuning the model, and wouldn’t get access to the underlying code if you wanted to tinker with it.
With Llama 2 you get an advanced large language model that you can use for free to make your own Chat-GPT lookalike product. The code is open source so you can tweak it to your needs. The model is available for download from Meta or Hugging Face and if you want to get a feel for how it performs you can try it out at https://llama.perplexity.ai/ .
Who will win the LLM race?
We imagine this free release will set off a frenzy of meetings in the Google and OpenAI boardrooms. They’ll need to work out if and how they can keep charging for their products when there’s a great free option available.
It’s also noteworthy that while Microsoft is backing Meta with Llama 2, it’s also the biggest investor in OpenAI. Microsoft is making sure it covers all its bases in an effort to assert its dominance in AI.
Who will win the LLM race? Will we see it play out like the VHS vs Betamax story? In that scenario, Sony’s proprietary, more expensive Betamax lost out to the openly licensed, cheaper VHS. If Google and OpenAI are students of history then we may see them change their business models in the near future.