Alibaba debuts ChatGPT challenger 'Tongyi Qianwen' after Baidu's chatbot

More details about the chatbot are expected next week, through a formal launch.
Ameya Paleja
Alibaba company logo on office building in Shanghai
Alibaba company logo on office building in Shanghai

Robert Way/iStock 

Chinese e-commerce giant, Alibaba, is the latest entrant in the artificial intelligence (AI) powered chatbot race. The company invited users to test its Tongyi Qianwen AI chatbot, a challenger to ChatGPT, which has dominated headlines since its launch in November last year.

Fueled by Microsoft's investments, ChatGPT creator OpenAI is looking to push its large language model (LLM) across industrial sectors ranging from advertising to healthcare. Attempts to slow down OpenAI's runaway success by Google's own AI has faced a few hiccups. However, it is now the turn of Chinese-led businesses to launch their LLMs to take on GPT's dominance.

Chinese Businesses to Unveil AI Offerings

In the coming week, a host of Chinese tech companies plan to introduce their AI offerings. Huawei Technologies has a scheduled event on Saturday for its Pangu, natural language processing (NLP) AI model, while SenseTime's event next week promises to showcase some "cutting edge advancements in AI".

The biggest expectations, however, are from Alibaba at its Cloud event, where CEO Daniel Zhang is scheduled to speak and will formally launch its chatbot. Ahead of the event, the company has published a teaser and a website that says, "Hello, my name is Tongyi Qianwen, this is our first time meeting, I welcome your feedback", Reuters reported.

Alibaba debuts ChatGPT challenger 'Tongyi Qianwen' after Baidu's chatbot
Representative image of a chatbot

There isn't much information available on the website on how the model works or what it has been trained on. However, it has boxes to enter phone numbers and email addresses to request an invitation to the service.

According to Bloomberg's report, the name of the LLM is derived partly from the ancient philosopher Mencius and roughly translates to Truth from a Thousand Questions. Since the company's website for the service is only in Chinese, it is likely that the AI model could also be used for processing queries in the language alone.

This would not be a major deviation from previous developments in the technology world, where Western giants like Google and Meta failed to make inroads into Chinese markets and locally developed solutions serviced the large population base.

Last month, Chinese search engine giant Baidu, unveiled its AI chatbot dubbed Ernie bot but failed to make an impact. With Alibaba's proven success outside the Chinese market, it will be interesting to see if its AI model can offer an alternative to OpenAI's GPT to users outside China as well.

All eyes are now set on Alibaba's Cloud event scheduled for Tuesday.

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