Or why you should cool down with the anti-Microsoft rhetoric, at least for now

Disclaimer: This is an opinionated article.

What a historic moment! May be only second to the moment Windows incorporated the Linux Subsystem, one-time anti-open source giant buys off may be the biggest open source platform that drove the eco-system, the ethos, and the practices for open source to a new level during past few years. And my Facebook feed (yes, I’m still friends with that guy) is filled with rants on how Microsoft will kill Open Source.

Granted, Microsoft undoubtedly has not had a stable relationship with Open Source. Bill Gates notbeen a really good advocate for Open Source. The other side had no love lost either. The “love” was in the air so much that Hollywood felt the need to make a movie about it, casting an actor with a face that looks really familiar.

Like any other love-hate relationship, Microsoft and Open Source has come to terms, accepting the truth that both cannot really progress without each other. Open Source has advanced so much into a plethora of solutions that companies can happily adopt. The old tactical vendor lock-in by closed-source licensing is struggling (while you can technically lock-in someone by standards).

On the other hand, Open Source has been craving a new kind of fuel for a few years now. It’s not about sticking it to the man anymore. For a few years now, Open Source has been more about collaboration, discussion, and creation rather than “RTFM” all the time. GitHub has been a major driver, being a platform to share, discuss, and collaborate with code. You now rarely see that community which always barks at you for asking a stupid question.

As bitter as all you commies would be, every sustained project needs money to be so during the long term. Yes, there are few successful Open Source projects that do not depend on the gold coin, but for a person to put in work on something they are passionate about, there should be some kind of process that pays for their time and effort, that otherwise would have been invested in something equally, or most of the time, more profitable ventures.

This is where the fit occurs. The fit between a capitalist Silicon Valley giant and an anarchist Open Source community. And by far, this might be the most profitable fit made so far.

Microsoft, one of the most valuable brands listed by Forbes, has the economy of scale, to invest in risks freely, where it’s needed in Open Source to attract new projects, nourish budding companies, and in turn feed back to the innovation that the tech industry continuously hunger.

So would Microsoft close off the platform? I’d bet my money on Nope.

Ranked as the top fifth Linux Kernel contributor one time, Microsoft is not the screaming kid any more, complaining about the competition. It has grown up to see opportunity and value innovation wherever it grows. This is why Microsoft acquired the largest revenue in 2017 as the top Cloud provider. By contributing to the Linux Kernel, Microsoft developed it’s Hyper-V stack at a phase that was needed when it initially failed to appreciate the Cloud.

What can Microsoft bring into this relationship other than the money?

Integration

Microsoft has been a master of providing integrated (but closed) solutions. Microsoft Office 365 is a beautiful example of this. Despite being the cradle of open standards, Open Source has not been a successful implementer (again, I know there are plenty of examples to show otherwise, but the failed implementations shadow these).

UX

Again, Open Source has fallen behind on developing a proper UX culture. Microsoft, Google, and Apple has made use of their user base to develop and evolve UX with increasingly riskier bets that have been immensely successful. When Microsoft Office 2007 came in with the Ribbon interface, it was nothing anyone else had thought of. That bad boy revolutionized how anyone would think about user interaction in a dull application like Office Excel. Same with the Windows 8 tiles screen. They were ready for tablets, before even it was a thing (granted, being ready before the time has its own drawbacks), which shows how far into the future they are really looking into.

Wider Adaptation

Microsoft brings to the table its massive client base, who are already committed to its integrated solutions. GitHub can benefit from this to expand into the more corporate client base who earlier viewed GitHub as the edgy, hippie thing that no one trusted their code base with. Would that be off-putting to the existing user base? Well, some of them may leave, but as long as the collaboration stays with GitHub the majority would stay.

In other words

Open Source isn’t about anti-corporate rhetoric now. Most Open Source contributors are not the stubborn bearded idealists anymore.

Open Source has evolved through some truly wonderful collaborations. The Linux Kernel, the distro explosion, the Apache Foundation, Google Groups, and the GitHub way, now we can keep a look out for what this marriage would bring out.

And no, it’s not the end of Open Source.

No, there wouldn’t be a mass exodus to GitLab, not until they fix their outages and figure out the recipe for collaboration.

No, Microsoft would not close off GitHub. That sounds ridiculous. Why would they buy the Golden Goose and kill it for the eggs?


Written on June 5, 2018 by chamila de alwis.

Originally published on Medium