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Microsoft Continues Transformation by Joining Open Source Initiative

Hell has long since frozen over for Microsoft haters of yore, but one more nail in their coffin is this week's news that the company has joined the Open Source Initiative (OSI).

The move is yet another milestone in the company's years-long transformation into a more open organization, a far cry from how it used to be perceived -- especially by developers.

The non-profit OSI is involved in many aspects of the open source movement, including community building, education, public advocacy and so on. It's probably best known for maintaining the Open Source Definition, which details the criteria for the distribution terms that open source software must comply with.

"The work that the Open Source Initiative does is vital to the evolution and success of open source as a first-class element in the software industry," Microsoft said in a blog post this week. "As Microsoft engages with open source communities more broadly and deeply, we are excited to support the Open Source Initiative's efforts and to take part in the OSI community."

The OSI said Microsoft has a long history of working with the organization, going back some 12 years, but it was probably the release of the Microsoft .NET Framework in 2014 that brought that participation to light for many in the open source community.

The organization also pointed to several other Microsoft open source initiatives, such as: bringing Bash/Linux to Windows 10; expanding support for Linux and open source workloads on the Azure cloud; the open sourcing of Visual Studio Code and Typescript; and many more. Also, Microsoft previously joined the Linux Foundation and frequently partners with other companies on open source projects, including Canonical, Red Hat and SUSE.

Listing the company's GitHub projects, for example, results in 47 pages of different offerings that total well over 1,000 items.

That might seem normal to younger developers who weren't around in the '90s when Microsoft was seen by many as a monolithic, closed, corporate predator that barely tolerated any competition and swallowed up rivals or sought to eliminate them. It even became the target of the U.S Department of Justice, which derided the company for its internal "embrace, extend, and extinguish" strategy of "entering product categories involving widely used standards, extending those standards with proprietary capabilities, and then using those differences to disadvantage its competitors."

Now, it's a total team player, with open source initiatives and partnerships galore, a "Microsoft + Open" Web site, an "Open Source at Microsoft" Web site and executives such as Scott Hanselman tasked with furthering open source efforts at the company. Hanselman famously outlined his thoughts on open source and Microsoft haters in the 2014 blog post "Microsoft killed my Pappy."

He also made his philosophy clear in a Hacker News comment that read:

It's worth noting that under Satya [Ed: And ScottGu] (in my org, Cloud and Enterprise) we open sourced ASP.NET, use 50+ OSS libraries in Visual Studio, have all the Azure cloud SDKs on GitHub, and on and on. We made Portable Libraries happen and now share code between iOS, Android, and Windows. This is not your grandfather's MSFT, and now the dude who helped us (Azure) change things in a fundamentally non-MSFT and totally awesome way is in charge. I'm stoked -- big things coming, I think.

Big things did indeed come, and this week's news is likely not to be the last of them.

For example, in this week's post, the company said, "Today's announcement represents one more step in Microsoft's open source journey and our increased role in advocacy for the use, contribution, and release of open source software, both with our customers and the ecosystem at large."

Haters gonna hate, but they're getting less and less ammunition to do so when it comes to open source and Microsoft.

Or, as Hanselman concluded: "I said, find a new reason to hate Microsoft. I didn't kill your Pappy, son."

Posted by David Ramel on 09/28/2017 at 3:05 PM


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