Aug 11, 2023

Unix was initially developed with the R&D budget of AT&T at Bell Labs. Originally it was freely licensed as a trade secret to any institution or company that asked (AT&T was wrapped up in antitrust about entering the computer business itself). Over time, Bell Labs began to sell Unix as proprietary software.

New projects emerged, like Tannebaum’s MINIX and Torvalds’ Linux (the latter having a permissive license).

Llama was developed with the R&D budget of Meta. Like Unix, it was first generally accessible to the academic community. Now, it’s more permissively licensed for commercial use (although there are still restrictions).

Is Llama Unix? If so, then what will be the Linux of Llama? A fully permissive license and truly open-source development (maybe with its own BDFL — Benevolent Dictator for Life).

Some interesting analogies to think through:

  • Who are the Tannebaum—Torvalds of LLMs?
  • Is Microsoft, Microsoft again? Reaping the benefits of open development with a closed-source operating system.
  • What do distributions look like? What will be the equivalent of Debian, Red Hat, Ubuntu, and Arch Linux? Are they fine-tuned or a different type of derivative work? How much do they rely on “upstream kernels”?
  • Who is Bell Labs? Google? Meta? Will antitrust provide another opportunity for an upstart?
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