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Alibaba takes on ChatGPT, Bard with Tongyi Qianwen AI launch

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Chinese tech giant Alibaba (NASDAQ: BABA) has confirmed the launch of its artificial intelligence (AI) model dubbed Tongyi Qianwen for public use, with an open-source version in the works.

Alibaba said it will empower enterprises to develop their own AI products based on its large language model (LLM). Several firms, including OPPO, DingTalk, and Taobao, have already confirmed their intent to rely on Tongyi Qianwen in building their AI solutions.

In April, Alibaba announced plans for Tongyi Qianwen, built with 7 billion parameters, designed to compete with OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s (NASDAQ: GOOGLBard. With extensive training data in Mandarin and in-depth functionalities, Alibaba says its AI model could seize a sizable market share.

At the time, Alibaba stated that it would integrate the AI model across all its business verticals after testing its feet with Meta’s (NASDAQ: METALlama2 in a solution for enterprises.

Alibaba says it will roll out a free, open-source version of its AI model in the coming weeks. Experts opine that the free, open-source release has the potential to attract several classes of users, from AI researchers to casual users, despite its seemingly late entrance into the space.

Since Chinese authorities introduced interim measures to regulate AI, local tech firms have flooded the space with their AI offerings. Barely a month after the rules came into effect, over 70 AI products have been launched commercially, with Baidu’s (NASDAQ: BAIDFErnie chatbot achieving instant success.

Alibaba’s leadership expressed optimism that Tongyi Qianwen will catch up with industry leaders, given its array of functionalities. There are unconfirmed reports that the company could be releasing a light version of its AI to cater to the needs of a broader spectrum of users.

Internally, Alibaba has undergone seismic changes, with Eddie Wu stepping up as the new CEO. In a letter to shareholders, Wu confirmed that the company will be “user first” and “AI-driven,” hinting at even more significant investments in machine learning solutions.

“Over the next decade, the most significant change agent will be the disruptions brought about by AI across all sectors,” said Eddie Wu. “If we don’t keep up with the changes of the AI era, we will be displaced.”

A tight leash for the industry

Amid the avalanche of AI solutions, Chinese authorities have reiterated their commitment to prevent the misuse of the technology. In August, the country’s Network Security Bureau disclosed that it would be increasing its AI, Web3, and cloud computing technology monitoring to crack down on impersonation and malware attacks.

“We have been monitoring the use of ChatGPT, cloud computing, blockchain, deep fake AI, and other new emerging technologies, new applications, and new organizations in these incidents,” said Network Security Bureau executive Jingeng Sun. “We will strike hard at such methods as we research their use.”

China has since imposed a blanket ban on digital currencies and severe geo-restrictions on ChatGPT for failing to meet minimum regulatory standards.

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