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PyTorch gets lit under The Linux Foundation

Independent management aims to ensure openness and transparency

Meta is shifting the management of PyTorch, a deep learning framework developed by Meta subsidiary Facebook, to the newly formed PyTorch Foundation, which in turn will be under the oversight of The Linux Foundation.

"PyTorch has become one of the leading AI platforms with more than 150,000 projects on GitHub built on the framework," said Meta CEO Mark Zuckberg in a Facebook post. "The new PyTorch Foundation board will include many of the AI leaders who've helped get the community where it is today, including Meta and our partners at AMD, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Nvidia."

According to Meta, putting PyTorch within its own foundation "ensures that decisions will be made in a transparent and open manner by a diverse group of board members for many years to come."

The board will consist of representatives from AMD, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, Meta, Microsoft Azure and Nvidia – all companies involved in the development of AI technology, although plenty of players have been left out but the list of companies involved may expand in time.

Meta's decision not to carry PyTorch alone reflects the preference of technology companies - and the open source community - not to become dependent on software that comes with strings attached, whether that's affiliation with a particular brand or with a software license that limits freedom.

In 2017, when Meta went by the name Facebook, the biz encountered resistance to its React framework. The Apache Software Foundation and WordPress rejected React because the project's BSD + Patents software license failed to address patent litigation concerns. Facebook subsequently responded by shifting React to an open source MIT license.

Presently, the issue appears to be more reputational than legal. Meta makes it clear that it doesn't want the perception of its business – sufficient last year to require the company to swap its Facebook brand for a clean slate – to influence how outsiders feel about the technology it has developed.

"Going forward, the framework’s contributors will benefit from the robust governance, diverse leadership and additional investments provided by the new PyTorch Foundation partners," Meta said in a statement.

"The Foundation will strive to adhere to four principles: remaining open, maintaining neutral branding, staying fair and forging a strong technical identity. One of its main priorities will be to keep a clear separation between the business and technical governance of PyTorch."

PyTorch, under a BSD-3-Clause license plus the Apache Contributor License Agreement, is one of the major deep learning frameworks at the moment, the other being TensorFlow, developed by Google and subsequently released under an Apache 2.0 license. Over the past two years, PyTorch appears to have become the more popular of the two, based on Google Trends. ®

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