Zuckerberg Gains Popularity in Silicon Valley After Embracing “Open-Source” AI

IBL News | New York

Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, has become a popular figure in Silicon Valley among developers and technologists after embracing the open-source model for AI.

He is now the highest-profile technology executive who supports and promotes this approach.

Since last summer, his company has released code that anyone can freely copy, modify, and reuse — largely the opposite of what Google, OpenA, and Microsoft have done.

The New York Times dedicated an article to him on this subject. “That stance has turned Mr. Zuckerberg into the unlikely man of the hour in many Silicon Valley developer communities, prompting talk of a “glow-up” and a kind of “Zuckaissance,” wrote the paper.

“This technology is so important, and the opportunities are so great, that we should open source and make it as widely available as we responsibly can so that everyone can benefit,” he said in an Instagram video in January.

The company said the model LLaMA 2, released in July, has been downloaded over 180 million times. A more powerful version of the model, LLaMA 3, released in April, reached the top of the download charts on Hugging Face, a community site for A.I. code, at record speed.

Developers have created tens of thousands of customized AI programs on top of Meta’s software, performing everything from helping clinicians read radiology scans to creating scores of digital chatbot assistants.

Mr. Zuckerberg’s new popularity in tech circles is striking because of his fraught history with developers.

Mr. Zuckerberg founded Facebook in 2004 and has long backed open-source technology. In 2011, Facebook started the Open Compute Project, a nonprofit that freely shares designs of servers and equipment inside data centers. In 2016, Facebook also developed Pytorch, an open-source software library widely used to create AI applications. The company is also sharing blueprints of computing chips that it has developed.

Meta technologists like Yann LeCun and Joelle Pineau, who spearhead AI research, pushed the open model, which they argued would better benefit the company in the long term.

While open-sourcing LLaMA means giving away computer code that Meta spent billions of dollars to create with no immediate return on investment, Mr. Zuckerberg calls it “good business.” As more developers use Meta’s software and hardware tools, they are more likely to become invested in its technology ecosystem, which helps entrench the company.

The technology has also helped Meta improve its internal AI systems, aiding ad targeting and recommending more relevant content on Meta’s apps.

“It is 100 percent aligned with Zuckerberg’s incentives and how it can benefit Meta,” said Nur Ahmed, a researcher at MIT Sloan who studies AI. “LLaMA is a win-win for everybody.”

Competitors are taking note. In February, Google open-sourced the code for two AIs. models, Gemma 2B and Gemma 7B. Other companies, including Microsoft, Mistral, Snowflake, and Databricks, have also started offering open-source models this year.