Home » Meta’s big, expensive AI bet hinges on giving its models away for free

Meta’s big, expensive AI bet hinges on giving its models away for free

by NBC News

Meta is spending big on artificial intelligence — only to offer its latest advanced AI models to the public for free.

The tech giant recently announced the rollout of Llama 3, the open-code large language model that underpins the Meta AI assistant tool now widely accessible on its flagship social media platforms. Meta aimed to “build the best open models that are on par with the best proprietary models available today,” it wrote in a blog post.

The model quickly drew acclaim from technologists — but not from investors.

Meta stock plummeted Wednesday after CEO Mark Zuckerberg touted a slew of money-losing projects on its first-quarter earnings call. Zuckerberg expressed confidence in investing even further in advanced open-source AI models.

“I’m very pleased with how Llama 3 has come together so far,” he said on the earnings call, adding, “I expect our models are just going to improve further from open-source contributions.”

“Open source” is generally used to describe software that is made available to the public, which can use the code and improve it or build on it. Several rapidly growing AI startups, such as Mistral AI and Hugging Face, have found success offering open-source models and tools.

In AI, models — such as large language models and foundational models — are the complex pieces of software that use algorithms, trained on relevant data, to complete tasks that include recognizing patterns and making predictions or decisions. OpenAI, Google, Anthropic and many more companies are constantly developing, training and tweaking their models seeking to create ever more capable AI programs.

So what’s the catch? Why would Meta spend so much time and money developing AI models only to make them open source?

Alex Ratner, CEO of the data-focused company Snorkel AI and an assistant professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington, wrote in an email that Llama 3 is a “much bigger step change than many people…

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