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In December 2022, in the middle of the unprecedented success of ChatGPT — OpenAI dropped another lesser-noticed, yet, world-changing AI model.

That model was creatively named text-embedding-ada-002. At the time, Ada 002 leapfrogged all other state-of-the-art (SotA) embedding models — including OpenAI's own previous record-setter; text-search-davinci-001.

Since then, OpenAI has remained surprisingly quiet on the embedding model front — despite the massive widespread adoption of embedding-dependant AI pipelines like Retrieval Augmented Generation (RAG).

That lack of movement from OpenAI didn't matter much regarding adoption. Ada 002 is still the most broadly adopted text embedding model. However, Ada 002 is about to be dethroned.

OpenAI is dethroning its own model. Again, they came up with very creative model names — text-embedding-3-small and text-embedding-3-large.

First look video walkthrough:

Video walkthrough of the new OpenAI embed 3 models.

At a Glance

These models are better, and we have the option of latency and storage-optimized text-embedding-3-smallor the higher accuracy text-embedding-3-large.

ModelDimensionsMax TokensKnowledge CutoffMIRACL avgMTEB avg
text-embedding-ada-00215368191Sep 202131.461.0
text-embedding-3-small15368191Sep 202144.062.3
text-embedding-3-large30728191Sep 202154.964.6

Key takeaways here are the pretty huge performance gains for multilingual embeddings — measured by the leap from 31.4% to 54.9% on the MIRACL benchmark. For English-language performance, we look at MTEB and see a smaller but still significant increase from 61% to 64.6%.

It's worth noting that the max tokens and knowledge cutoff have not changed. That lack of new knowledge represents a minor drawback for use cases performing retrieval in domains requiring up-to-date knowledge.

We also have a different embedding dimensionality for the new v3 large model, resulting in higher storage costs and paired with higher embedding costs than what we get with Ada 002.

Now, there is some nuance to the dimensionality of these models. By default, these models use the dimensionality noted above. However, it turns out that they still perform even if we cut down those vectors.

For v3 small, we can keep just the first 512 dimensions. For v3 large, we can trim the vectors down to a tiny 256-dimensions or a more midsized 1024-dimensions.

Click here to try out the new OpenAI embedding models and see how they compare to Ada 002.

What's so Special About These Models?

After further testing, the most exciting feature (for us) is that the 256-dimensional version of text-embedding-3-large can outperform the 1536-dimensional Ada 002. That is a 6x reduction in vector size.

OpenAI confirmed (after some prodding) that they achieved this via Matryoshka Representation Learning (MRL) [1].

MRL encodes information at different embedding dimensionalities. As per the paper, this enables up to 14x smaller embedding sizes with negligible degradation in accuracy.


[1] A. Kusupati, et al., Matryoshka Representation Learning (2022), NeurIPS 2022