Keywords: [ Distribution Shift ] [ image-text pretraining ] [ machine learning dataset ] [ Robust machine learning ]
Web-crawled datasets have enabled remarkable generalization capabilities in recent image-text models such as CLIP (Contrastive Language-Image pre-training) or Flamingo, but little is known about the dataset creation processes. In this work, we introduce a testbed of six publicly available data sources---YFCC, LAION, Conceptual Captions, WIT, RedCaps, Shutterstock---to investigate how pre-training distributions induce robustness in CLIP. We find that the performance of the pre-training data varies substantially across distribution shifts, with no single data source dominating. Moreover, we systematically study the interactions between these data sources and find that mixing multiple sources does not necessarily yield better models, but rather dilutes the robustness of the best individual data source. We complement our empirical findings with theoretical insights from a simple setting, where combining the training data also results in diluted robustness. In addition, our theoretical model provides a candidate explanation for the success of the CLIP-based data filtering technique recently employed in the LAION dataset. Overall our results demonstrate that simply gathering a large amount of data from the web is not the most effective way to build a pre-training dataset for robust generalization, necessitating further study into dataset design. Code is available at https://github.com/mlfoundations/clipqualitynot_quantity.