Meta founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during Meta Connect event at Meta headquarters in Menlo Park, California on September 27, 2023.
Josh Edelson | AFP | Getty Images
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg may not have been directly involved with the drama surrounding Sam Altman’s tumultuous departure from, then return to, OpenAI, but the social networking executive and his company could benefit from the ordeal.
There’s been much debate over the “winners” of the OpenAI executive saga, with some experts believing Microsoft and its CEO Satya Nadella proved victorious while the OpenAI board members who kicked off the debacle by firing Altman last Friday were the losers.
Microsoft, OpenAI’s largest financial backer, has been positioning the high-profile startup as a cornerstone cloud computing partner, promoting Altman and his team throughout the year at numerous events. It created a public association between itself and the high-flying maker of ChatGPT. But that backfired somewhat when critics questioned how the boardroom shenanigans could have escaped Nadella and his company’s watch.
Meanwhile, Meta and Zuckerberg had the luxury of watching the corporate circus from the sidelines. It could help Meta boost its open-source Llama AI initiatives, as some companies look to diversify away from relying on a single company’s large language model. And it may even help with recruiting.
Meta continues to invest heavily in the kinds of generative AI and related large language models that helped spawn OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Its AI research team is considered, with Alphabet’s DeepMind, one of the most esteemed groups in the tech industry.
Technologists looking to work in the private sector may find comfort in stability at Meta and its AI research lab following the seemingly near collapse of one of the industry’s leading AI startups.
As one user on Meta’s Twitter-like Threads service posted on Wednesday: “Everyone is saying MSFT is the big winner of [the] OpenAI fiasco. But I can easily see META being the big winner in the end.”
“If you’re an AI researcher and you’re going to work at big tech, it might as well be the company with the largest open source and public research presence,” the user said in the Threads post.
Then there are the potential business opportunities.
The OpenAI fiasco raised concerns among the startup’s customers and other corporate leaders about whether they should only rely on one kind of LLM as part of their AI business strategies. Multiple technologists told CNBC that the OpenAI ordeal jumpstarted a push from businesses to lessen their reliance on OpenAI’s GPT family of LLMs to incorporate others from startups like Anthropic and Cohere.
Meta could benefit if companies continue to seek multiple AI vendors, much like firms now rely on multiple cloud providers. The company has heavily touted its Llama-branded family of generative AI software, which is available for free via an open-source model. Llama is attractive because developers can access and customize the LLM to their specific needs without being tethered to a particular vendor.
The more developers access and improve Llama, the more Meta can potentially lower its overall operating and technology research costs, among other benefits.
Finally, despite Llama’s licensing concerns and other potential issues, more companies and developers may choose to build apps with Meta’s AI software without fear that the social networking giant could collapse in a matter of days.