Meta, the technology company, recently made a significant announcement in the tech industry with the release of Llama 2, the second version of its free and open-source large language model. As both a user and developer of products that use large language models, I am excited about this development. What impressed me even more was Meta’s strategic decision to open-source Llama 2. In this article, we will explore why Meta made this decision, how it affects the competitive landscape of ML-driven products, and its implications for Meta’s position in the tech industry.
The Battle of LLMs: Meta, Microsoft, and Google
In today’s tech landscape, industry giants like Microsoft/OpenAI and Google are competing intensely to develop and market the best ML-driven products. This battle extends to the quality of their respective large language models (LLMs), such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard. These companies consider their proprietary LLMs as valuable assets and guard them closely. However, Meta’s decision to go open-source with Llama 2 represents a game-changing move.
Tactical Advantage of Open-Source LLMs
By open-sourcing Llama 2, Meta gains a tactical advantage by attracting potential customers who may have otherwise turned to competitors like Google or Microsoft. Meta understands the value of building a strong user and developer community, which can be achieved through an open-source approach. Opening up their LLM also allows Meta to receive feedback, conduct testing, and make necessary improvements to enhance the model’s capabilities. While smaller companies can afford to make mistakes, larger companies like Meta need to be careful due to public scrutiny.
Strategic Implications for Meta
Meta is often seen as relatively more exposed or fragile compared to other major tech players because its revenue stream is less diversified. Unlike Apple or Microsoft, Meta doesn’t directly sell software or hardware, and it lacks the extensive commercial cloud infrastructure of Google, Amazon, or Microsoft. However, Meta’s investments in the Metaverse over the years have enabled the company to diversify beyond being just an advertising aggregator. The Metaverse presents opportunities for Meta to offer complex B2B and B2C solutions, making their strategic bet on this frontier a calculated move.
The First Intangible Asset: Large Language Models
What makes Meta’s open-source LLM initiative unique is the strategic significance of LLMs themselves. Building a large language model requires a massive training set, exceptional research scientists, and costly hardware. It can be considered the first intangible asset of industrial size. Microsoft’s $10 billion investment in OpenAI exemplifies the substantial resources required to develop LLMs. Only a few companies have the ability to build such models. Furthermore, monetizing LLMs can be achieved through various business models after their free release.
The Asset that Drives Diversification
By leveraging the expertise of Yann Lecun’s research team, Meta has acquired a powerful asset in Llama 2. This LLM allows Meta to diversify beyond its primary revenue source, advertising. Meta can explore new markets and revenue streams by offering innovative solutions based on Llama 2’s capabilities. This strategic move strengthens Meta’s position in the industry and enhances its ability to compete with other tech companies. Meta’s decision to release Llama 2 as an open-source LLM demonstrates tactical and strategic brilliance. It enables Meta to gain a competitive edge, benefit from community-driven development, and diversify beyond its traditional revenue streams. As the tech landscape continues to evolve, Meta’s open-source LLM initiative showcases the company’s commitment to innovation, collaboration, and long-term success in an ever-changing industry.