Benefits of open source vs proprietary (LLMs)


Benefits of open source vs proprietary (LLMs)

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Benefits of open source vs proprietary (LLMs)

With the growing number of large language models (LLMs) available on Huggingface, focusing on the distinctions between proprietary and open source models is critical for AI enthusiasts and businesses to understand.

Proprietary LLMs are owned by companies with usage restrictions, while open source LLMs are freely accessible for use and modification. Despite often being smaller in parameter size, open source LLMs are challenging the proprietary model with several benefits.

When you dive into the world of LLMs, you’ll quickly notice a key split: the choice between proprietary and open source models. Proprietary LLMs, like IBM’s Granite Language Model, are developed by private companies and come with certain restrictions on how they can be used. Their inner workings are often kept under wraps, known only to the company that created them. On the flip side, open source LLMs, such as the Bloom model by BigScience, are a testament to the power of community collaboration. These models are freely available for anyone to use, modify, and distribute, without the constraints of proprietary licenses.

“BLOOM is an autoregressive Large Language Model (LLM), trained to continue text from a prompt on vast amounts of text data using industrial-scale computational resources. As such, it is able to output coherent text in 46 languages and 13 programming languages that is hardly distinguishable from text written by humans. BLOOM can also be instructed to perform text tasks it hasn’t been explicitly trained for, by casting them as text generation tasks.”

Open Source vs Proprietary LLMs

The allure of open source LLMs is undeniable, and their impact on the AI field is significant. One of the standout features of these models is their transparency. This openness builds trust and allows users to understand how the AI operates. But it’s not just about trust; this transparency has tangible benefits. It enables users to tailor models to specific tasks or to support underrepresented languages, making them more valuable in specialized markets.

Proprietary Large Language Models


  1. Quality Control and Consistency: Proprietary models often have robust quality control, ensuring consistent performance and reliability.
  2. Support and Maintenance: These models typically come with dedicated support and regular updates from the owning company.
  3. Customization for Specific Applications: They may offer specialized features or customizations for specific industries or use-cases.
  4. Data Security and Privacy: Proprietary models can provide more controlled environments, potentially offering better data security and privacy compliance.
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  1. Cost and Accessibility: Access to these models often comes at a cost, which can be prohibitive for individual users or small organizations.
  2. Usage Restrictions: There are often strict usage restrictions, limiting the scope of how and where the model can be used.
  3. Lack of Transparency: The internal workings and training data of these models are typically not disclosed, leading to potential biases and ethical concerns.
  4. Dependency on a Single Provider: Users become dependent on the provider for updates, support, and continued access.

Open Source Large Language Models


  1. Accessibility and Cost: Open-source models are freely accessible, making them available to a wider audience, including researchers, small businesses, and hobbyists.
  2. Transparency and Auditability: The open nature allows for examination and auditing of the code and algorithms, fostering trust and understanding.
  3. Community Development: They benefit from community contributions, leading to diverse inputs and rapid innovation.
  4. Flexibility in Usage: Users have the freedom to modify and use the models as per their requirements, encouraging experimentation and customization.


  1. Quality and Reliability Variability: Open-source models may lack the consistent quality control of proprietary models.
  2. Limited Support: They often come with limited or no formal support structure, relying on community forums or documentation.
  3. Resource Intensity: Deploying and maintaining these models can require significant computational resources and expertise.
  4. Potential for Misuse: The lack of usage restrictions can lead to ethical concerns, as there is less control over how the model is used.

The success of open source projects hinges on the collective wisdom and innovation of contributors from around the globe. This shared intelligence drives rapid progress and adds to the strength and variety of the technology. In some cases, these community-driven efforts can even surpass the innovation of proprietary models, which often boast larger parameter sizes but may lack the same level of collaboration.

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Open source LLMs are making waves across various industries, proving to be a boon for progress and efficiency. Take NASA, for instance, which uses these models to analyze vast amounts of textual data. Or consider the healthcare sector, where open source LLMs help professionals extract insights from medical literature and patient interactions. The versatility of these models makes them an invaluable asset for a wide array of organizational needs.

Among the standout open source LLMs are Llama 2 by Meta AI and Vicuna, which demonstrate that open source solutions can hold their own against proprietary models, even those with more substantial resources. However, LLMs are not without their challenges. Issues such as output errors, biases in training data, and security vulnerabilities are real concerns that need to be addressed. These challenges underscore the importance of ongoing research and development to minimize potential negative impacts and promote the responsible use of LLMs.

IBM Watsonx supports all LLMs

IBM has recognized the importance of the open source movement by backing platforms like Watsonx Studio. This platform supports the release and management of both proprietary and open source models, reflecting a broader trend in the industry towards embracing open source AI development. This shift acknowledges the value that community-driven innovation brings to the table.

The open source LLM scene is dynamic and constantly changing. As you delve into this area, you’ll see that the collaborative spirit of open source development is not just an idealistic notion but a practical approach to creating AI technologies that are more effective, transparent, and inclusive. Whether you’re a developer, a business leader, or an AI enthusiast, understanding the nuances of proprietary versus open source LLMs is crucial for tapping into the immense possibilities these tools present.

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