Alibaba Cloud Releases Open-Source AI Models to Compete with Meta Platform’s Offering

Alibaba Group’s cloud computing unit, Alibaba Cloud, has made a significant move in the AI landscape by releasing two open-sourced artificial intelligence (AI) models.
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The two large language models (LLM), named Qwen-7B and Qwen-7B-Chat, each boasting 7 billion parameters, were unveiled on Thursday in a press release. This marks a groundbreaking moment, as it is the first time a major Chinese tech company has open-sourced its LLM.

The release comes as a direct response to the recent unveiling of a similar open-sourced AI model by Meta Platform, called Llama 2, which generated widespread interest in the industry. Open-sourced models have the potential to challenge the current market dominance enjoyed by companies like OpenAI, the developer of ChatGPT, and Google, whose AI models charge users expensive fees.

Alibaba Cloud had previously announced its LLM named Tongyi Qianwen in April, which includes multiple versions with varying numbers of parameters. The newly released Qwen-7B and Qwen-7B-Chat models are two smaller versions of Tongyi Qiawen, designed to cater to small and medium businesses looking to leverage AI technology.

According to the company’s announcement, the code, model weights, and documentation for both models will be freely accessible to academics, researchers, and commercial institutions worldwide. However, companies with more than 100 million monthly active users will need to acquire a license from Alibaba before utilizing these models, similar to Meta’s requirement for users with over 700 million users to obtain a license for Llama 2.

Alibaba did not disclose the number of parameters in its largest Tongyi Qianwen model, but it confirmed that higher-parameter versions have not been open-sourced at this time. In comparison, Meta’s largest Llama 2 model boasts an impressive 70 billion parameters.

China has been making significant efforts to catch up with the United States in the AI sector. Beijing has been actively encouraging Chinese companies, including tech giants Tencent Holdings and Huawei, to rapidly develop and deploy homegrown and “controllable” AI models that can rival those developed by their U.S. counterparts. With the release of open-sourced AI models, Alibaba Cloud aims to contribute to China’s AI development while fostering global collaboration and innovation in the field.