MICROSOFT HAS taken another trip into the world of open source - and it's a biggie.
The Bing AI algorithm is now available to download, fork and tweak. If that's something you're not familiar with as a concept, Bing is a search engine, like a less-good Google.
The Space Partition Tree and Graph (SPTAG) algorithm allows Bing to deduce an answer when the question is vague - for example, 'What's that Square called near Charing Cross?' with no further input.
"Bing processes billions of documents every day, and the idea now is that we can represent these entries as vectors and search through this giant index of 100 billion-plus vectors to find the most related results in 5 milliseconds," said Jeffrey Zhu, program manager on Microsoft's Bing team.
"We've only started to explore what's really possible around vector search at this depth," adds Rangan Majumder, group program manager on Microsoft's Bing search and AI team.
Microsoft wants to see coders using SPTAG for functions where a boring old search won't do - perhaps to auto-identify a language from audio, or a particular image from a stack of similar options.
Friend of INQ and open source advocate Rafael Laguna of Open Xchange makes no bones about the importance of this latest move.
"It's not unreasonable to suggest that Microsoft is slowly becoming an open source company," he quipped. "This isn't a standalone announcement, this is part of a wider shift towards a more "open" direction for Microsoft - remember, they acquired GitHub last year, and we saw Satya on stage with Red Hat‘s CEO Jim Whitehirst last week. Exciting times.
"This is a hugely positive step, and a real u-turn from the days when Steve Ballmer often referred to open source as "cancer" and Microsoft filed lawsuits against Linux companies."
As you'd expect, the source code and all the documentation is available at the Microsoft-owned GitHub, with further instruction and video available at the Microsoft AI Lab.
In recent years, Microsoft has made a number of its patents open source 'to protect Linux'. μ
'Some of us like the misery'
That'll surely affect its credit score