I know that the title sounds deceiving, especially to those who’ve been watching the open source realm over the past couple decades. However, Microsoft has been dabbling with open source for awhile, and they even have a website that talks about it. Let’s look into this a bit more.
I’ve had my eye on the open source world for at least the past decade. While my roots may be in Microsoft technologies, my first presentations at user groups and conferences were on open source projects and programming in Linux. Even when I keynoted at Software Freedom Day – Cleveland 2011 – talking about “Keeping an Open Mind About Open Source”, I made sure to mention that yes, Microsoft is included in the list of those involved with open source. It was nice to be able to mention their company name and get more intrigue than groans.
Microsoft’s Involvement in Open Source in Terms of Development
One myth people have believed is that developers who use Microsoft technologies don’t understand open source. However, that myth is just that – a myth. The truth is, developers of all types, including those who use Microsoft technologies, are interested in the open source movement. Whether they’re contributing to their own projects or encouraging developers to contribute to projects or create their own open source projects, Microsoft has provided developers with a home for open source projects over at CodePlex.
In addition to providing a place to host these open source products, they have encouraged developers to help with the tooling in Visual Studio. One package management system that’s used commonly in the Microsoft development realm is NuGet, the open source developer focused package management system. This tool allows those developing with Microsoft’s Visual Studio to easily add 3rd party open source libraries to their applications.
We have a place to host open source packages and tools to give us access to open source libraries. Microsoft is also known for promoting open source packages and pro-open source solutions in their Web App Gallery, which can be accessed on desktops via Web Platform Installer and can be installed on webhost’s servers for those webhosts that support the Microsoft Web App Gallery. You can even play with these packages and customize them on your own, even if you don’t have Visual Studio. Microsoft’s WebMatrix tool ties into the Web App Gallery as well and makes it easy to work with applications found in the Web App Gallery.
Microsoft’s Open Source Initiative
Recently, my friend Marques – also known as @tromboneforhire on Twitter – tweeted about stumbling upon the Microsoft Openness site. I had never ever heard about it up until that point, but I figured I’d poke around the site to see what their site was about.
Microsoft is all about building bridges across platforms. The Openness site covers how Microsoft is about building these bridges, looking at how openness influences Microsoft and its audience. It contains stories of Microsoft paired with common open source technologies and packages – including PHP and Drupal. There’s also a list of resources on openness and interoperability – including standards, Microsoft projects, and other helpful links. You can also get your short updates from them as @OpenAtMicrosoft on Twitter.
In addition to the Openness site, there’s the Port25 blog that covers communications from the open source community at Microsoft. Here you can find where Microsoft technologies meet the open source community. Whether it’s Microsoft appearing at OSCON or something like PhoneGap on Windows Phone being complete, you’ll find all sorts of details on Microsoft’s relations in open source. As they put it on their site:
Port 25 is about having a healthy conversation with customers and the industry to talk openly and honestly about their biggest interoperability challenges, whether it is on UNIX, Linux, Windows, or other open source packages.
We believe that healthy and productive discussion only occurs when the parties listen and respond to each other, and this is the foundation on which Port 25 is built.
Our goal is to be accessible, approachable and smart, which means our door is always open, that no comment goes unread, that ideas (common sense required) can be openly discussed, and that while change takes time, we’re committed.
In “Keeping an Open Mind About Open Source”, I challenged my audience to keep their mind open for the rest of the conference, as they may have been surprised with what was covered in the conference. As for now, I challenge you, whoever you may be, to get past the myth that Microsoft isn’t interested in open source. It’s a myth, and the reality is that Microsoft is interested and has taken big strides over the years to show how they’re interested and want to be involved in the open source realm.