From open-source hater to no. 1 fan: Microsoft now tops Google, Facebook in GitHub contributors

New figures show that Microsoft, which once equated open source with death, has now enthusiastically embraced the software model.

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The figures from GitHub offer only a single slice of the world's open-source activities, but they are a solid indicator that Microsoft has put its money where its mouth is.

Image: GitHub

Microsoft has more open-source contributors than any other organization in the world on GitHub, according to new figures from the popular code-hosting site.

With Azure and the cloud high on Microsoft's agenda these days, the company has proclaimed its love of open source on numerous occasions over the past few years.

Under CEO Satya Nadella, it's doubled down on open source, marking a huge shift from the early 2000s when former CEO Steve Ballmer described its licensing as a cancer on Microsoft intellectual property. Even Ballmer today gives his blessing to open source, largely because there's money to be made.

Backing up Microsoft's claimed fondness of open source, data from GitHub's 2016 Octoverse report shows that Microsoft has become the world's top organisation by the number of contributors to open source on GitHub.

Specifically, Microsoft has 16,419 contributors to open-source projects on GitHub, putting it a ahead of Facebook's 15,682, and further ahead of other rivals long associated with open source, including Docker, Angular, Google, and Apache.

There are numerous examples of Microsoft's developing fondness of open source, including teaming up with Canonical to bring Ubuntu Windows 10, again because Ubuntu opens a door for developers to Azure.

It acquired cross-platform app-developer platform Xamarin last year and then open-sourced its developer toolkit, and ported .Net Core to Linux, while more recently shifting its deep-learning toolkit CNTK (Computational Network Toolkit) to GitHub under a more open license than was previously available at its own open-source code-hosting site, CodePlex.

The figures from GitHub only offer a single slice of the world's open-source activities, but given GitHub's popularity with the developer community, they are a solid indicator that Microsoft has put its money where its mouth is after Nadella in 2014 said, "Microsoft loves Linux".

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