Alibaba Cloud opens source code for machine-learning platform Alink

Alibaba Cloud, a subsidiary of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, has opened to the public its source code for an in-house machine-learning platform that it used to drive product recommendations during this year’s Singles Day shopping festival.

Why it matters: Alibaba has sharpened its focus on open-source software since 2011. The company’s cloud division is a member of the Linux Foundation and is active in a number of open-source communities including the Apache Software Foundation.

  • Against the backdrop of the Sino-US trade war, China has been criticized for relying on American frameworks for artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
  • AI and machine learning is a collaborative movement and Alibaba Cloud joins a number of global internet firms which have released open-source platforms. It also stands to benefit from allowing more people to work on the platform, potentially improving it.

Details: Dubbed Alink, the platform offers a range of algorithm libraries that allow for processing live data as well as batched datasets, Alibaba Cloud said in a statement on Thursday.

  • Alink facilitates tasks including statistical analysis, machine learning, real-time prediction, personalized recommendations, and anomaly detection.
  • Alibaba has been using the platform across its businesses for the last three years. It said Alink helped increase the click rate of product recommendations on online marketplace Tmall by 4% during this year’s Nov. 11 Singles Day shopping festival.
  • The platform is built on Apache Flink, an open-source framework for handling big data at large scale.

Context: The State Council, China’s cabinet, has set ambitious goals for the country to become a global leader in AI by 2030. As a result, China has applied AI across industries, permeating every facet of daily life.

  • Nevertheless, the country lags behind in terms of talent and semiconductor development—the tools that provide the computing power that enables machines to learn from vast quantities of data.
  • Alibaba is not the only Chinese tech giant to open source its machine learning tools. has opened up its Paddle Paddle deep-learning framework, a tool that was also used internally across its product offering.

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