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September 13, 2022

Meta transfers control of its AI framework to the PyTorch Foundation

Many of tech's big names will sit on the board of the new foundation, which will be responsible for the popular AI framework.

By Ryan Morrison

Meta has transitioned its popular open source PyTorch artificial intelligence framework to the Linux Foundation, creating a new PyTorch Foundation that it hopes will “democratise access” to the technology and “accelerate progress in AI research”.

Meta developed PyTorch in 2016. (Photo by lazyllama/Shutterstock)

PyTorch is one of the leading AI frameworks and is used by more than 18,000 organisations including Tesla, which deploys it to power its Autopilot driverless car technology. While it was created by Meta it has had significant investment and contributions from a range of tech giants including Amazon, Google and chipmaker AMD.

The platform allows researchers and developers to make use of Python as the main programming language for AI models and supports “tensors”, which make it possible to manipulate data in ways not possible in other frameworks.

Soumith Chintala, co-creator of PyTorch at Meta says the move provides the technology with a “neutral foundation for securing assets and interests” and reduces the chance of conflicts arising between the needs of Meta and other contributors.

“This move enables neutrality and unlocks more investment into PyTorch and benefits every stakeholder including Meta,” he wrote on Twitter. “We’re super excited for this move at Meta and will continue to drive our contributions and investments into the project.”

The idea of moving PyTorch out of the direct control of Meta has been in the works for some years, according to Chintala. “We started as a band of developers from the Torch-7 community. Meta organised PyTorch into a healthy entity – introducing CLAs, branding guidelines, and trademark registration. This is the natural next step.”

The governing board of the new foundation will include representatives of AMD, Google, Amazon, Meta, Microsoft and Nvidia, but Meta hopes to expand that over time. It partnered with the wider AI community in 2016 to develop its framework for AI research, making it open source and inviting other organisations to contribute, and since its inception has led to the creation of more than 150,000 projects on GitHub.

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“When researchers and developers open-source their code, others around the world can share their work, learn from each other’s advances and then contribute back to the AI community,” Meta wrote in a press release.

“At Meta, we will continue to invest in PyTorch and use it as the primary framework for our AI research and production. The transition itself won’t mean any changes to PyTorch’s code, core project or developer operating models.”

PyTorch Foundation will adhere to four key principles

Dr Ibrahim Haddad, vice president of strategic programs at the Linux Foundation will take on the executive director role at the PyTorch Foundation.

He says the foundation will adhere to four key principles – remaining open, maintaining neutral branding, staying fair and forging a strong technical identity. One of the priorities, according to Meta, will be to maintain a clear separation between the business and technical governance.

Meta says it will continue to be a major contributor to PyTorch including using it as its primary AI framework, confirming just last year it would be migrating all of its AI models to the platform.

Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation said the PyTorch Foundation would “build something insanely great and add to the global heritage of invaluable technology that underpins the present and the future of our lives.”

“PyTorch has gotten to its current state through sound maintainership and open source community management. We’re not going to change any of the good things about PyTorch,” he wrote. “In fact, we can’t wait to learn from Meta and the PyTorch community to improve the experiences and outcomes of other projects in the Foundation.”

Former Facebook CTO and active AI investor Mike Schroepfer described the success of PyTorch as “mind-blowing”, writing on Twitter that it is “part of a long history of Meta engineers building foundational tech”. This includes the development of React and React Native, as well as the Open Compute Project.”

Schroepfer added: “I’m really proud to have been able to lead this work driving open infrastructure that powered the web, mobile, and now AI revolutions. And I’ll be PyTorch’s number one supporter as it thrives as a true community project as part of the Linux Foundation.”

Read more: Ten-point plan to boost open source software security revealed

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