Meta revealed in a blog post that its forthcoming large language model (LLM), called Llama 2, will be available completely free of charge for both research and commercial purposes.
It's the second generation of LLM from Meta and a strategy shift as the first was only available for select academics for research purposes only.
Llama 2 uses a complex algorithm trained on words and phrases scraped from the open internet and, according to Meta, has 40% more data to rely on compared with Llama 1.
Partnering with Microsoft
The new AI tool will be available through Microsoft's cloud computing platform, Azure, as well as Hugging Face and Amazon Web Services. There will also be an optimized version that runs on Windows software.
The decision to make Llama 2 open-source will have huge ramifications for the accelerating AI industry. While OpenAI's headline-grabbing ChatGPT (which Microsoft invested billions into) and Google's own Bard chatbot are both free-to-use, neither is open-source. The underlying technology remains proprietary software that can't be used without a payment by anyone seeking to deploy it elsewhere.
However, Meta's decision to open up the Llama 2 source code means any individual or business anywhere in the world will be able to download and modify it for their own needs or to use it as part of their own AI inventions.
In a statement posted on its website, Meta wrote: "We believe an open approach is the right one for the development of today's AI models, especially those in the generative space where the technology is rapidly advancing.
"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.”
In a separate post on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg planted his flag in the sand: “Open source drives innovation because it enables many more developers to build with new technology. It also improves safety and security because when software is open, more people can scrutinize it to identify and fix potential issues. I believe it would unlock more progress if the ecosystem were more open, which is why we're open-sourcing Llama 2.”
Whilst making a model as sophisticated as Llama 2 open-source could boost competition, it also runs the risk of the technology being misused. For example, criminals, hackers and bad actors could use the open-source software for malicious purposes such as phishing and deep fakes or even to create powerful artificial intelligence tools of their own.
The introduction of Meta’s Llama 2 could have a significant effect on both OpenAI and Google’s market share. Users might be inclined to switch to Llama 2 if it offers similar or better performance, especially considering the cost advantage of being free. Google Bard remains free for consumers to use, although it's still in beta, while ChatGPT has a premium tier, ChatGPT Plus, available for $20 a month.
It's important to note that the exact details and capabilities of Llama 2 are not yet known, as it is still in development. Therefore, it's difficult to predict the exact impact it will have on current models.