Alibaba Group Holding said it is testing a ChatGPT-like service that takes advantage of its years of research in large language models, joining web search giant Baidu in a rush to create China’s answer to San Francisco-based OpenAI’s chatbot, which has set off a frenzy among investors and the general public. A spokeswoman at Alibaba, owner of the South China Morning Post, confirmed on Thursday that the company’s research institute Damo Academy is conducting an internal testing, but did not provide a timetable for service launch. Baidu previously said it expects to complete testing of Ernie Bot, its ChatGPT-like service, in March. Alibaba, a Chinese e-commerce juggernaut, is also one of the country’s leading players in artificial intelligence (AI) research. In April 2021, Damo introduced a natural language processing model – Pretraining for Language Understanding and Generation – which has 27 billion so-called parameters – a measure of the size and sophistication of an AI model. That same year, the institute built an AI model known as M6, calling it the world’s first 10-trillion-parameter pre-training model. By comparison, OpenAI’s Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3 (GPT-3), the language processing model that underpins ChatGPT, launched in 2020 with 175 billion parameters. In an annual report published last month , Damo listed “generative AI” – which creates new output based on a set of texts, images or audio files it has been trained on – as one of the top technology trends to watch for in 2023. Besides Alibaba, other major Chinese tech companies have also touted plans to develop or apply ChatGPT-style services. Baidu will incorporate Ernie Bot into its search engine, while CEO Robin Li Yanhong has set a key target in the first quarter for the company to “lead a generational disruption in the search experience”, according to a person familiar with the matter. Tencent Holdings has laid out its strategy in related technologies, while research in specific subjects is advancing in an orderly manner, a company representative said. JD.com, one of China’s top three online retailer platform operators, “is accelerating AI applications powered by ChatGPT-related technological achievements”, company vice-president He Xiaodong said in a statement on Thursday. Video gaming giant NetEase is currently working on a product that “originates from the technology used by ChatGPT” for its online education business, according to a report by Shanghai Securities Journal on Wednesday. ChatGPT, released to the general public just over two months ago, has been widely discussed regarding its ability to hold humanlike conversations on topics from poetry to history, write lyrics and university-level essays, and dispense life advice. The trend has caught on even in China, where ChatGPT is unavailable . The ChatGPT Index, compiled by Shanghai-based data service provider Wind based on nearly 30 AI companies listed in mainland China, jumped over 16 per cent in the past five trading days. Shanghai-listed Cloud Walk Technology and Shenzhen-listed Hanwang Technology have both received inquiries from their respective stock exchanges after their share prices doubled in three weeks, driven by announcements that they are working on ChatGPT-like technology. Meanwhile, a string of domestic start-ups are offering access to ChatGPT or similar services through Tencent’s WeChat app, but they are only available to users who know where to look. A search for “ChatGPT” mini-programs on WeChat returned zero results on Thursday, although there had been several mini-programs named after the OpenAI bot offering trial use. Shanghai-based Entropy Cloud Network Technology, which has launched a chatbot on WeChat that it said was built on technologies similar to ChatGPT’s, renamed its service from “ChatGPT Online” to “AI Conversation” on Wednesday. Chat Dada, a public account on WeChat, provides a free service that allows users to ask ChatGPT five questions a day without bypassing China’s Great Firewall internet censorship mechanism. It recently rebranded itself as “GPT Dada” after some users complained that the original name had misled them into believing that the account was affiliated with ChatGPT. Tencent did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its policy over the operation of ChatGPT-related services on WeChat.