why the giants fight over open source
Open source is the origin of much of the progress that we now enjoy and, in a way, a bastion of some early internet culture that many think is being lost.
Android, Linux or the Firefox browser are the great examples, which have a huge list of software whose code can be freely shared and improved. What is perhaps not so well known is that for quite some time the big technology companies themselves, the ones that do the most business with proprietary software, have been its main promoters.
And that has good and bad things.
Recently, there has just been a turn of events in this throne of benefactors of the Open Source.
Microsoft had been the company that was giving the most resources until this year. Although, yes, the ranking has a certain trick because it breaks off the subsidiaries. For example, Microsoft's GitHub or IBM's Red Hat. Counting them together, Microsoft would still be first.
Open Source, as far as I want
It is perhaps hard to believe that Microsoft, which especially in the 90s had many litigations with Open Source promoters, has led this classification for so long. However, since the arrival of Satya Nadella, his perspective has changed, and a lot.
Google, for its part, has always supported and supported open source. Again, for better or for worse. It has turned Android into a standard, but it has also been criticized for closing APIs of, for example, Chromium, according to its interests.
According to data from the Open Source Contributor Index (OCSI), Google had 5,421 active contributors in August, compared to 5,268 for Microsoft.
Red Hat, Intel and IBM have systematically followed Google and Microsoft in terms of the number of taxpayers this year and also in the last five years.
In the meantime, Amazon is one rung behind, with 1,963 contributions. However, Amazon is showing higher monthly growth than some of the other companies on the list.
There are also differences by language. Looking at the type of projects they work on, Aiven's team found that while Google and Amazon mostly work on C++, Java, and Python, Microsoft prefers its own languages: Powershell and C#.
The data is obtained by counting the commits on GitHub. Altogether, the commits Monthly open source projects from Google, Microsoft and Amazon grew 300% in six years, from 2,654 contributors in May 2016 to 10,549 in May 2022.
The Role of Big Tech in Open Source
Heikki Nousiainen, field technology director and co-founder of Aiven, said in the report that the big tech trio is putting more resources and development time into open source, something the community needs to ensure that important projects are sustained.
This is especially relevant because large companies commonly hide behind security problems to privatize some elements of the code.
"That Google has overtaken Microsoft is especially surprising," says Nousiainen. "A contributing factor has been the decline in Microsoft's year-over-year commitments to open source projects. However, Microsoft's commitment to developer freedom and innovation is constant, as the company it is a major player in open source, and even bought GitHub in 2018,” he commented.
But, why is it so interesting?. “Open source is a neutral no man's land,” says Aiven's founder. “People have always engaged with each other, but now it's more because people expect companies to engage more and connect. The ecosystem is a much more powerful thing now and it's easier to build."
However, as we mentioned, not always everything is so idyllic. In March 2021, Google limited access to many Chrome APIs within the open source Chromium web browser, which Chrome and many other browsers are based on.
Google justified its decision by saying that "Third-party Chromium-based browsers integrate features based on Google's cloud, which were intended only for Google Chrome users."
In other words, "this meant that a small fraction of users could access their Google account and store their personal Chrome sync data, such as bookmarks, not only with Google Chrome, but also with some Chromium-based third-party browsers." ".
Google's move caused many Chromium developers and maintainers on other versions to see their work disrupted.
It should be noted that almost 90% of the browsers used by all Internet users are based on Chromium. In this way, Google may not be using, as Microsoft did in the 90s, its predominance to sell its products, but it has made it clear that it continues to have the upper hand in some decisions that may be critical.