Microsoft and open source

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Microsoft, a technology company once known for its opposition to the open source software paradigm, turned to embrace the approach in the 2010s. From the 1970s through 2000s under CEOs Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, Microsoft viewed the community creation and sharing of communal code, later to be known as free and open source software, as a threat to its business, and both executives spoke negatively against it. In the 2010s, as the industry turned towards cloud, embedded, and mobile computing—technologies powered by open source advances—CEO Satya Nadella led Microsoft towards open source adoption although Microsoft's traditional Windows business continued to grow throughout this period generating revenues of 26.8 billion in the third quarter of 2018, while Microsoft's Azure cloud revenues nearly doubled its revenue.[1]

Microsoft open sourced some of its code, including the .NET Framework and Visual Studio Code, and made investments in Linux development, server technology, and organizations, including the Linux Foundation and Open Source Initiative. Linux-based operating systems power the company's Azure cloud services. Microsoft acquired GitHub, the largest host for open source project infrastructure, in 2018. Microsoft is among the site's most active contributors. This acquisition lead a few projects to migrate away from GitHub.[2] This proved a short lived phenomenon because by 2019 there were over 10 million new users of GitHub.[citation needed]

Since 2017, Microsoft is one of the biggest open source contributors in the world,[3] measured by the number of employees actively contributing to open source projects on GitHub, the largest host of source code in the world.[4][5]

History[edit]

Initial stance on open source[edit]

Altair 8K BASIC on paper tape. In 1976, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates expressed frustration with most computer hobbyists who were using his company's software without having paid for it.

The paradigm of freely sharing computer source code—a practice known as open source—traces back to the earliest commercial computers, whose user groups shared code to reduce duplicate work and costs.[6] Following an antitrust suit that forced the unbundling of IBM's hardware and software, a proprietary software industry grew throughout the 1970s, in which companies sought to protect their software products. The technology company Microsoft was founded in this period and has long been an embodiment of the proprietary paradigm and its tension with open source practices, well before the terms "free software" or "open source" were coined. Within a year of founding Microsoft, Bill Gates wrote an open letter that positioned the hobbyist act of copying software as a form of theft.[7]

Microsoft successfully expanded in personal computer and enterprise server markets through the 1990s, partially on the strength of the company's marketing strategies.[8] By the late 1990s, Microsoft came to view the growing open source movement as a threat to their revenue and platform. Internal strategy memos from this period, known as the Halloween documents, describe the company's potential approaches to stopping open source momentum. One strategy was "embrace-extend-extinguish", in which Microsoft would adopt standard technology, add proprietary extensions, and upon establishing a customer base, would lock consumers into the proprietary extension to assert a monopoly of the space. The memos also acknowledged open source as a methodology capable of meeting or exceeding proprietary development methodology. Microsoft downplayed these memos as the opinions of an individual employee and not Microsoft's official position.[9]

While many major companies worked with open source software in the 2000s,[10] the decade was also marked by a "perennial war" between Microsoft and open source in which Microsoft continued to view open source as a scourge on its business[11] and developed a reputation as the archenemy of the free and open source movement.[12] Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer likened Linux to a kind of cancer on intellectual property. Microsoft sued Lindows, a Linux operating system that could run Microsoft Windows applications, as a trademark violation. The court rejected the claim and after Microsoft purchased its trademark, the software changed its name to Linspire.[11]

In 2002, Microsoft began experimenting with 'shared source', including the Shared Source Common Language Infrastructure, the core of .NET Framework.[13]

Adoption[edit]

2000s[edit]

In April 2004, Windows Installer XML (WiX) was the first Microsoft project to be released under an open-source license,[14] the Common Public License.[15] Initially hosted on SourceForge,[16] it was also the first Microsoft project to be hosted externally.

In June 2004, for the first time Microsoft was represented with a booth at LinuxTag, a free software exposition, held annually in Germany.[17] LinuxTag claims to be Europe's largest exhibition for open source software. In September 2004, Microsoft released its FlexWiki, making its source code available on SourceForge.[18] The engine is open source, also licensed under the Common Public License. FlexWiki was the third Microsoft project to be distributed via SourceForge, after WiX and Windows Template Library (WTL).

In 2005, Microsoft released the F# programming language under the Apache License 2.0.[13]

In 2006 Microsoft launched its CodePlex open source code hosting site, to provide hosting for open-source developers targeting Microsoft platforms. Microsoft also ported PHP to Windows under PHP License and partnered with Novell to improve open source interoperability in 2006.[13] Microsoft partnered with and commissioned Vertigo Software in 2006 to create Family.Show, a free and open-source genealogy program, as a reference application for Microsoft's latest UI technology and software deployment mechanism at the time, Windows Presentation Foundation and ClickOnce.[19][20][21] The source code has been published on CodePlex and is licensed under the Microsoft Public License.

In June 2007, Tom Hanrahan, former Director of Engineering at the Linux Foundation, became Microsoft's Director of Linux Interoperability.[22][23] The Open Source Initiative approved the Microsoft Public License (MS-PL) and Microsoft Reciprocal License (MS-RL) in 2007.[13] Microsoft open sourced IronRuby, IronPython, and xUnit.net under MS-PL in 2007.[13]

In 2008, Microsoft joined the Apache Software Foundation[24] and co-founded the Open Web Foundation with Google, Facebook, Sun, IBM, Apache, and others.[13] Also in 2008, Microsoft began distributing the open source jQuery JavaScript library together with the Visual Studio development environment for use within the ASP.NET AJAX and ASP.NET MVC frameworks.[25][26]

When Microsoft released Hyper-V in 2008, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server became the first non-Windows operating system officially supported on Hyper-V. Microsoft and Novell signed an agreement to work on interoperability two years earlier.[27]

Microsoft first began contributing to the Linux kernel in 2009.[13]

Tom Hanrahan, Director of Microsoft's Open Source Technology Center, speaking at Solutions Linux 2010 in Paris

In 2010, Microsoft Research and Wikipedia joined forces to launch WikiBhasha, an open-source multi-lingual content creation tool for the online encyclopedia.[28] Based on customer feedback, Microsoft relicensed IronRuby, IronPython, and the Dynamic Language Runtime (DLR) under Apache License 2.0 in July 2010.[29]

Microsoft signed the Joomla contributor agreement and started upstreaming improvements in 2010.[13]

2010s[edit]

In 2011, Microsoft started contributing code to the Samba project. The same year, Microsoft also ported Node.js to Windows, upstreaming the code under Apache License 2.0.[13]

After acquiring Skype in 2011, Microsoft continued maintaining the Skype Linux client.[13]

Microsoft became a partner with LinuxTag for their 2011 event and also sponsored LinuxTag 2012.[30][31]

In 2012, Microsoft began hosting Linux virtual machines in the Azure cloud computing service and CodePlex introduced git support.[13] The company also ported Apache Hadoop to Windows, upstreaming the code under MIT License.[13]

Also, ASP.NET, ASP.NET MVC, ASP.NET Razor, ASP.NET Web API, Reactive extensions, and IL2JS (an IL to JavaScript compiler) were released under Apache License 2.0.[13]

The TypeScript programming language was released under Apache License 2.0 in 2012. It was the first Microsoft project hosted on GitHub.[13]

In 2013, Microsoft relicensed the xUnit.net unit testing tool for the .NET Framework under Apache License 2.0 and transferred it to the Outercurve Foundation.[13] Also in 2013, Microsoft added Git support to Visual Studio and Team Foundation Server using libgit2, the most widely deployed version of Git. The company is dedicating engineering hours to help further develop libgit2 and working with GitHub and other community programmers who devote time to the software.[32]

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in 2014

In 2014, Satya Nadella was named the new CEO of Microsoft. Microsoft began to adopt open source into its core business. In contrast to Ballmer's stance, Nadella presented a slide that read, "Microsoft loves Linux".[12] At the time of the acquisition of GitHub, Nadella said of Microsoft, "We are all in on open source." As the industry trended towards cloud, embedded, and mobile computing, Microsoft turned to open source to stay apace in these open source dominated fields. Microsoft's adoption of open source included several surprising turns.

Miguel de Icaza, founding member of the Mono, and Xamarin projects and member of the board of directors of the .NET Foundation

In 2014, the company opened the source of its .NET Framework to promote its software ecosystem and stimulate cross-platform development. Microsoft also started contributing to the OpenJDK the same year.[13] The Wireless Display Adapter, released in 2014, was Microsoft's first hardware device to use embedded Linux.[13]

In 2015, Microsoft co-founded the Node.js Foundation[33] and joined the R Foundation. The same year, Microsoft also open sourced Matter Center, Microsoft's legal practice management software and also Chakra, the Microsoft Edge JavaScript engine at the time.[13] Also in 2015, Microsoft released Windows 10 with native support for the open-source AllJoyn framework, which means that any Windows 10 device can control any AllJoyn-aware Internet of Things (IoT) device in the network.[34] Microsoft has been developing AllJoyn support and contributing code upstream since 2014.[13]

Microsoft opened the keynote speech at All Things Open in 2015 by stating that:

Microsoft's approach to open today is: Enable, integrate, release, and contribute.

In August 2015, Microsoft released WinObjC, also known as Windows Bridge for iOS, an open-source middleware toolkit that allows iOS apps developed in Objective-C to be ported to Windows 10.[36][37][38] On November 18, 2015, Visual Studio Code was released under the Expat License and its source code posted to GitHub.[39]

In January 2016, Microsoft became Gold Sponsor of SCALE 14x – the fourteenth annual Southern California Linux Expo, a major convention.[40]

When Microsoft acquired Xamarin and LinkedIn in 2016, it relicensed the Mono framework under MIT License and continued maintaining the Kafka stream-processing software platform as open source.[13] Also in 2016, Microsoft introduced the Windows Subsystem for Linux, which lets Linux applications run on the Windows operating system. The company invested in Linux server technology and Linux development to promote cross-platform compatibility and collaboration with open source companies and communities, culminating with Microsoft's platinum sponsorship of the Linux Foundation and seat on its Board of Directors.[41]

Microsoft released SQL Server and the now open source PowerShell for Linux.[13] Also, Microsoft began porting Sysinternals tools, including ProcDump and ProcMon, to Linux.[42]

In March 2016, Ballmer changed his stance on Linux, saying that he supports his successor Satya Nadella's open source commitments. He maintained that his comments in 2001 were right at the time but that times have changed.[43][44]

Commentators have noted the adoption of open source and the change of strategy at Microsoft:[45]

The company has become an enthusiastic supporter of Linux and of open source and a very active member of many important projects.

— Jim Zemlin, Executive Director of The Linux Foundation[46]

The BitFunnel search engine indexing algorithm and various components of the Microsoft Bing search engine were made open source by Microsoft in 2016.[47][48]

Microsoft joined the Open Source Initiative, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, and the MariaDB Foundation in 2017.[13] The Open Source Initiative, formerly a target of Microsoft, used the occasion of Microsoft's sponsorship as a milestone for open source software's widespread acceptance.

The Debian-based SONiC network operating system was open sourced by Microsoft in 2017.[49]

Also the same year, the Windows development was moved to Git and Microsoft open sourced the Git Virtual File System (GVFS) developed for that purpose.[50][51] Other contributions to Git include a number of performance improvements useful when working with large repositories.[52][53] Microsoft opened the Microsoft Store to open source applications and gave the keynote speech at the Open Source Summit North America 2017 in Los Angeles.[13]

Microsoft became Platinum Sponsor and delivered the keynote of the 2018 Southern California Linux Expo – the largest community-run open-source and free software conference in North America.[54][55]

Microsoft developed Linux-based operating systems for use with its Azure cloud services. Azure Cloud Switch supports the Azure infrastructure and is based on open source and proprietary technology, and Azure Sphere powers Internet of things devices. As part of its announcement, Microsoft acknowledged Linux's role in small devices where the full Windows operating system would be unnecessary.[55]

In 2018, Microsoft joined the Open Invention Network[56] and cross-licensed 60,000 patents with the open source community.[57][58]

Nat Friedman, CEO of Microsoft's GitHub subsidiary, the largest host of source code in the world
Michelle Noorali, Sr. Software Engineer at Microsoft and core maintainer on open source projects in the Kubernetes ecosystem including Helm speaking at LinuxCon 2018 in China.[59] Noorali serves on the Kubernetes Steering Committee.[60]

Also in 2018, Microsoft acquired GitHub, the largest host for open source project infrastructure. Microsoft is among the site's most active contributors and the site hosts the source code for Microsoft's Visual Studio Code and .NET runtime system. The company, though, has received some criticism for only providing limited returns to the Linux community, since the GPL license lets Microsoft modify Linux source code for internal use without sharing those changes.[61] In 2019, Microsoft's Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 transitioned from an emulated Linux kernel to a full Linux kernel within a virtual machine, improving processor performance manifold. In-keeping with the GPL open source license, Microsoft will submit its kernel improvements for accommodation into the master, public release.[62]

In 2018, Microsoft included OpenSSH, tar, and curl commands in Windows.[63][64] Also, Microsoft released Windows Calculator as open source under MIT License on GitHub.[65]

Microsoft added support for the open source Python programming language to Power BI in August 2018.[66]

In 2019, Microsoft released Windows Terminal, PowerToys, and the Microsoft C++ Standard Library as open source[13] and transitioned its Edge browser to use the open source Chromium as the basis.[67]

After publishing exFAT as an open specification, Microsoft contributed the patents to the Open Invention Network (OIN), and started upstreaming the device driver to the Linux kernel.[13]

At Build 2019, Microsoft announced that it is open-sourcing its Quantum Development Kit, including its Q# compilers and simulators.[68]

In December 2019, Microsoft released Microsoft Teams for Linux. This marked the first time Microsoft released an Office app for the Linux operating system. The app is available in native packages in .deb and .rpm formats.[69] Also in December 2019, after JS Foundation and Node.js Foundation merged to form OpenJS Foundation, Microsoft contributed the popular cross-platform desktop application development tool Electron to OpenJS Foundation.[70][71]

2020s[edit]

Project Verona, a memory-safe research programming language, was open sourced in January 2020.[72][73]

In 2020, Microsoft open sourced the Java extension for Microsoft SQL Server,[13] MsQuic (a Windows NT kernel library for the QUIC general-purpose transport layer network protocol),[74] Project Petridish, a neural architecture search algorithm for deep learning,[75] and the Fluid Framework for building distributed, real-time collaborative web applications.[76] Microsoft also released the Linux-based Azure Sphere operating system.[13]

In March 2020, Microsoft acquired npm, the open source Node package manager. It is the world’s largest software registry with more than 1.3 million packages that have 75 billion downloads a month.[77][78]

Also in March 2020, Microsoft together with researchers and leaders from the Allen Institute for AI, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Georgetown University's Center for Security and Emerging Technhology, and the National Library of Medicine released CORD-19, a public dataset of academic articles about COVID-19 and research related to the COVID-19 pandemic.[79] The dataset is created through the use of text mining of the current research literature.[80][81]

After exploring different alternative options and talking with various well-known commercial and open source package manager teams including Chocolatey, Scoop, Ninite and others such as AppGet, Npackd and the PowerShell based OneGet package manager-manager, Microsoft decided to develop and release the open source Windows Package Manager in 2020.[82]

Microsoft was one of the silver sponsors for the X.Org Developer’s Conference 2020 (XDC2020). Microsoft had multiple developers presenting on the opening day.[83]

In September 2020, Microsoft released the Surface Duo, an Android-based smartphone with a Linux kernel.[84] The same month, Microsoft released OneFuzz, a self-hosted fuzzing-as-a-service platform that automates the detection of software bugs.[85] It supports Windows and Linux.[86]

Microsoft is a major contributor to the Chromium project with the highest percentage of all non-Google contributors coming from Microsoft (35.2%). The company has contributed 29.4% of all non-Google commits to the source code in 2020.[87]

Support of open source organizations[edit]

Microsoft is either founding member, joining member, contributing member, and/or sponsor of a number of open source related organizations and initiatives. Examples include:

Selected products[edit]

Atom text and source code editor with an open project on Windows 10
PowerShell for Linux on Ubuntu

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Bibliography[edit]

  • Radits, Markus (January 25, 2019). A Business Ecology Perspective on Community-Driven Open Source: The Case of the Free and Open Source Content Management System Joomla. Linköping University Electronic Press. ISBN 978-91-7685-305-4.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]