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Meta’s Open Source Llama 3 Is Already Nipping at OpenAI’s Heels

Jerome Pesenti has a few reasons to celebrate Meta’s decision last week to release Llama 3, a powerful open source large language model that anyone can download, run, and build on.

Pesenti used to be vice president of artificial intelligence at Meta and says he often pushed the company to consider releasing its technology for others to use and build on. But his main reason to rejoice is that his new startup will get access to an AI model that he says is very close in power to OpenAI’s industry-leading text generator GPT-4, but considerably cheaper to run and more open to outside scrutiny and modification.

“The release last Friday really feels like a game-changer,” Pesenti says. His new company, Sizzle, an AI tutor, currently uses GPT-4 and other AI models, both closed and open, to craft problem sets and curricula for students. His engineers are evaluating whether Llama 3 could replace OpenAI’s model in many cases.

Sizzle’s story may augur a broader shift in the balance of power in AI. OpenAI changed the world with ChatGPT, setting off a wave of AI investment and drawing more than 2 million developers to its cloud APIs. But if open source models prove competitive, developers and entrepreneurs may decide to stop paying to access the latest model from OpenAI or Google and use Llama 3 or one of the other increasingly powerful open source models that are popping up.

“It’s going to be an interesting horse race,” Pesenti says of competition between open models like Llama 3 and closed ones such as GPT-4 and Google’s Gemini.

Meta’s previous model, Llama 2, was already influential, but the company says it made the latest version more powerful by feeding it larger amounts of higher-quality training data, with new techniques developed to filter out redundant or garbled content and to select the best mixture of datasets to use.