Microsoft, Open Source and The Big Ship

I would like to note that this post takes only public information available and are not based on my status as Microsoft MVP. I did not interview anyone at Microsoft for those answers. I did not receive any privileged information for writing this post. All the information I am using and the insight therefor are based on publicly available information.

When it happened

I’m not sure exactly when this change toward open source happened. Microsoft is a big ship. Once you start steering, it takes a while before you can feel the boat turn. I think it happened around 2008 when they started including jQuery in the default templates. It was the first swing of the wheel. Back then, you could have confused it for just another side project. Today, I think it was a sign of change.

Before this subtle change, we had things like Microsoft Ajax, the Ajax Control Toolkit and so many other reinvention from Microsoft. The same comment came back every time:

Why aren’t you using <INSERT FRAMEWORK HERE> instead of reinventing the wheel?

Open source in the Microsoft world

Over 10 years ago, Microsoft wasn’t doing open source. In fact, nothing I remember was open sourced. Free? Yes. Open source? No. The mindset of those days has changed.

The Changes

Initiatives like NuGet, integrating jQuery into Visual Studio templates, the multiple GitHub accounts and even going as to replace the default JSON serializer byJSON.NET instead of writing its own are all proofs that Microsoft have changed and is continuing to change.

It’s important to take into account that this is not just lip service here. We’re talking real time and money investment to publish tools, languages and frameworks into the open. Projects like Katana and Entity Framework are even open to contribution by anyone.

Without letting slip that Roslyn (the new C#/VB.NET compiler) as well as the F#’s compiler are now open sourced.

This is huge and people should know.

Where is it going today

I’m not sure where it’s going today. Like I said, it’s a big ship. From what I see, Microsoft is going 120% on Azure. Of course, Windows and Office is still there but… we already see that it’s not an Open-Source vs Windows war anymore. The focus has changed.

Open source is being used to enrich Microsoft’s environment now. Tools likeSideWaffle are being created by Microsoft employees like Sayed Hashimi and Mads Kristensen.

When I see a guy like Satya Nadella (CEO) talk about open source, I think it is inspiring. Microsoft is going open source internally then encouraging all employees to participate in open source projects.

Microsoft has gone through a culture change, and it’s still happening today.

Comparing Microsoft circa 2001 to Microsoft 2014.

If you were at least 10 years in the field, you would remember that way back then, Microsoft didn’t do open source. At all.

Compare it to what you’ve read about Microsoft now. It’s been years of change since then and it’s only the beginning. Back then, I wouldn’t have believed anyone telling me that Microsoft would invest in Open Source.

Today? I’m grinning so much that my teeth are dry.