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VanillaNet: the Power of Minimalism in Deep Learning

Hanting Chen · Yunhe Wang · Jianyuan Guo · Dacheng Tao

Great Hall & Hall B1+B2 (level 1) #1916


At the heart of foundation models is the philosophy of "more is different", exemplified by the astonishing success in computer vision and natural language processing. However, the challenges of optimization and inherent complexity of transformer models call for a paradigm shift towards simplicity. In this study, we introduce VanillaNet, a neural network architecture that embraces elegance in design. By avoiding high depth, shortcuts, and intricate operations like self-attention, VanillaNet is refreshingly concise yet remarkably powerful. Each layer is carefully crafted to be compact and straightforward, with nonlinear activation functions pruned after training to restore the original architecture. VanillaNet overcomes the challenges of inherent complexity, making it ideal for resource-constrained environments. Its easy-to-understand and highly simplified architecture opens new possibilities for efficient deployment. Extensive experimentation demonstrates that VanillaNet delivers performance on par with renowned deep neural networks and vision transformers, showcasing the power of minimalism in deep learning. This visionary journey of VanillaNet has significant potential to redefine the landscape and challenge the status quo of foundation model, setting a new path for elegant and effective model design. Pre-trained models and codes are available at and

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