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A brief history and a warning about Open Source at Microsoft

Some things are just too good to be open. This is a cautionary tale about Open Source at Microsoft.

The story is about OpenAI and GPT-3.

OpenAI’s timeline

Dec 2015
OpenAI is founded as non-profit by Elon Musk, Sam Altman and friends (with a pledged $1 billion investment).

March 2019
OpenAI becomes a for-profit. The “capped” profit mentioned in the first paragraph on that link is “funny” since profit is capped at 100x!

July 2019
OpenAI gets $1 billion from Microsoft and announces its intention to license its products with Microsoft as its “preffered” partner.

Sept 2020
GPT-3, OpenAI’s language predictive model is license “exclusively” to Microsoft.

That didn’t take long.

It took Microsoft from July 2019 till Sept 2020 to transform “open” code into a product that it exclusively licenses. These things are extremely expensive. Licensing helps to pay for it. But the transition from “prefered” to “exclusive” could be an early indicator of where things are headed.

So, while being “thankful” for Microsoft for its “support of open source”, remember, when some things become too good, they will be too good to be open. The accountants who have to report profit to Wall Street will come knocking.