Microsoft is a leading tech giant with a history of bad blood with open source, but recently they’ve been making strides in salvaging a relationship with the communities they once swore to tear apart. Its popular open source projects include the likes of Visual Studio Code, ChakraCore, TypeScript, and more.
Microsoft, once known for their unabashed dread of open source, has now extended an olive branch (or maybe more appropriately, a Git branch) to the open source community. With the dozens upon dozens of Git repositories that Microsoft has laid out on GitHub, they have become the number one contributor to open source as of late, an idea that would have been fit for a fiction only a little more than a year ago. All animosity or distrust of Microsoft aside, this is undoubtedly beneficial for the open source community in both tangible and intangible ways.
First, we have a new code base belonging to the public that can assist in creating new free and open source software. Secondly, Microsoft is a role model to many companies and organizations, some of which abstained from the open source community en suite Microsoft, now those companies might also emulate Microsoft’s new spirit and start contributing to open source.
Visual Studio Code
One of Microsoft’s earliest contributions this year, and by far the most starred on GitHub, is Visual Studio Code. While it may not even come close to paralleling Microsoft’s Visual Studio on Windows, Visual Studio Code has appealed to a large audience and it is growing every day. Visual Studio Code is a very extensible, yet lightweight, IDE with support for many languages and a growing community. It may still be an underdog, but it’s one you’ll want to keep your eye on.
.Net Core Libraries, Runtime, and Roslyn
While these are all separate projects (and repositories), they’re probably best mentioned together because they’re all part of the .Net Framework in their own way. First off, we have the .Net Framework itself, one of Microsoft’s largest contributions to open source yet. Although not all of .Net has been open sourced, the so-called Core Libraries have been, and that’s a good start. Additionally, the .Net Runtime has been open sourced, and if that wasn’t enough, Microsoft has even opened their compiler for the .Net platform, Roslyn. With these tools, developers can start porting their applications to non-Microsoft operating systems with an ease that just wasn’t possible before.
BashOnWindows, or Bash on Ubuntu on Windows, is probably the most revolutionary thing that Microsoft has done. BashOnWindows uses the Windows Subsystem for Linux which is much like WINE in that it handles Linux system calls and translates them to Windows native system calls. The end result is that you can run Linux software on Windows. There are some things that are yet to work, but Microsoft is working hard to make the experience much more complete, but even as is, it is a wonderful tool for developers.
There’s a clear trend in the open source projects from Microsoft, they’re all targeted at developers. They are yet to open source something that directly benefits the end user, but we can keep our fingers crossed and hope that in the future they open up more of their products.