Alibaba joins big tech firms in releasing AI chatbot to public

Alibaba has become the latest Chinese big tech firm to put a ChatGPT rival on the market, following similar releases from ByteDance, Tencent, and Baidu.

This comes two weeks after the government green-lit the first batch of generative AI services for public use following months of deliberation over how to regulate the emerging technology. As per the interim regulations, which came into effect last month, generative AI services intended for public use must pass a security assessment before being officially licensed to ensure they are “reliable and controllable”.

ByteDance and Baidu were among the first 11 firms whose generative AI products received government approval, along with several smaller start-ups like Zhipu AI, MiniMax, and Baichuan Internet Technology. Baidu’s Ernie Bot, which has been one of China’s most hotly anticipated AI models since its invite-only launch in March, was downloaded 1 million times in less than 24 hours on the market.

Alibaba Cloud Intelligence Group has also revealed via its WeChat account that multiple organizations, including Taobao, DingTalk, OPPO, and Zhejiang University, have already agreed to use Tongyi Qianwen to train their own LLMs or develop applications for language models.

Taobao is currently testing a feature powered by Tongyi Qianwen that would provide “more precise recommendations” to users in product searches. The new feature is set to make its debut on Double 11 (November 11, also called “Single’s Day), China’s biggest annual shopping festival.

The new chief technology officer for Alibaba Cloud Intelligence Group, Zhou Jingren, plans to build an open ecosystem to nurture smaller players in AI innovation. “By hosting competitions and other community events, we want to engage with more developers and entrepreneurs, and encourage them to bring their ideas to life, unlock productivity, and create more versatile AI tools that transform and shape the future of our industries,” Zhou said at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference held in Shanghai in July.

In this vein, the company is planning to release an open-source version of its proprietary large language model used to train Tongyi Qianwen soon. Alibaba Cloud (which is slated to be spun off into an independent company eventually) hopes the open-source model will “lower the threshold of using large models, and make large model technology more beneficial for every enterprise and every individual.”


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