Kite, the startup that tried to bring AI-assisted coding to the market, is shutting down and open sourcing the majority of its code.
Developers have long hoped artificial intelligence would make programming much easier, and Kite was one of the first startups to tackle the challenge. In a post on the company’s website, founder Adam Smith has acknowledged that Kite has missed the mark, thanks to a number of factors.
“First, we failed to deliver our vision of AI-assisted programming because we were 10+ years too early to market, i.e. the tech is not ready yet,” Smith wrote.
“We built the most-advanced AI for helping developers at the time, but it fell short of the 10× improvement required to break through because the state of the art for ML on code is not good enough. You can see this in Github Copilot, which is built by Github in collaboration with Open AI. As of late 2022, Copilot shows a lot of promise but still has a long way to go.”
Even with more recent advances in AI, Smith believes the technology is still not quite there yet.
“The largest issue is that state-of-the-art models don’t understand the structure of code, such as non-local context,” Smith added. “We made some progress towards better models for code, but the problem is very engineering intensive. It may cost over $100 million to build a production-quality tool capable of synthesizing code reliably, and nobody has tried that quite yet.”
In addition to the technical challenges, Kite had difficulty monetizing its product, despite having 500,000 monthly active developers.
“Our diagnosis is that individual developers do not pay for tools,” Smith added. “Their manager might, but engineering managers only want to pay for discrete new capabilities, i.e. making their developers 18% faster when writing code did not resonate strongly enough.”
Smith says most of the company’s source code has already been open sourced on Github. Hopefully, other developers will be able to pick up where Kite left off and AI-assisted coding will eventually become a reality.
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