Microsoft still open sources more technologies than many think

Microsoft still open sources more technologies than many think

Summary: Don't look now, but Microsoft is continuing to open source many of its own technologies, even though it is still competing with Linux and Android vendors.


Every once in a while, it's good to remember that Microsoft is a big company full of individuals with many different priorities, view points and strategies -- especially when it comes to open source.

While the company continues to pursue Android developers for alleged IP violations with one hand, it also is attempting to meet developers where they are by supporting open-source tools and technologies. 

Just last week, Microsoft released an alpha version of a Node.js plug-in for Visual Studio 2012 and 2013. The week before, members of the ASP.Net team at Microsoft talked up some of their projects in a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA).

In the Reddit, the ASP.Net team participants noted that many of them have been at Microsoft five years or less. But "(s)ince then we've open sourced 90% of ASP.NET, MVC, Web API, all of Entity Framework, SignalR, VS Web Essentials, yada yada yada. We also have all the Azure SDK stuff open sourced on GitHub as well."

Scott Hanselman, one of the team members who took part in the Reddit AMA, noted on his blog that Node Tools for Visual Studio "is open source from the start, and has taken contributions from the very start. It supports Editing, Intellisense, Profiling, npm, Debugging both locally and remotely (while running the server on Windows/MacOS/Linux), as well publishing to Azure Web Sites and Cloud Service."

Microsoft had been working with Joyent since 2011 to get Node.js to work on Windows and Azure. Node is a tool/framework that uses JavaScript as its scripting engine.

Hanselman also shared last week a slide that showed off a "partial list" of open-sourced technologies are part of Visual Studio 2013. It's quite the list.

There are even more Microsoft technologies, especially in the app-development and web-development space, available under open-source licenses these days. TypeScript, Microsoft's "superset" of JavaScript, is available under the Apache 2.0 license. HDInsight for Windows Azure is "100 percent Apache Hadoop." The Softies recently allowed projects hosted on CodePlex to include those under a GPLv3 license.

Yes, Microsoft is continuing to offload some of its home-grown projects developed under open-source licenses to the Outercurve Foundation. But it's worth remembering not everyone in Redmond believes "open source" and "Microsoft" are mutually exclusive terms.

Topics: Open Source, Microsoft, Software Development, Web development


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • those are all small or failed projects

    that M$ is hoping to find suckers to fix and improve them for free.
    Real devs use LAMP not M$ proprietary crap!
    LlNUX Geek
    • Ballmer hates open source. It makes his face go red.

      Ballmer gets hot under the collar when he thinks about open-source software.

      Some years ago, he got all steamed up, and called Linux and open-source "a cancer". This attitude resulted in Microsoft failing in the OS market.

      Microsoft's Internet Explorer could not compete with open-source browsers. Microsoft was late to market with Windows Phone, because it had to build everything from the ground up.

      Meanwhile, competitors like Google grabbed the off-the-shelf Linux kernel and built a mobile OS on top of that. If Microsoft did the same, it would have had a decent mobile OS out years ago.

      Even Apple has major open-source components. FreeBSD is the basis for OS X. Apple was the main force behind the open-source WebKit browser. Ballmer led Microsoft into the closed-source quagmire.
      • Ballmer hates open source so much...

        That they've embraced it heartily on a great many fronts recently and are increasing their open source investments.

        Really though, NT is an incredibly solid core that easily gives FreeBSD and Linux a run for their money. Window's Phone's flaws are it's features, not it's core, and Windows is still dominating the desktop market and growing into the tablet market.

        Also, Internet Explorer easily competed with other browsers. That's the reason why we had the ridiculous IE6 monopoly for so long. The only reason open source caught up is because of Microsoft sitting on it's laurels and Apple's (initial closed source) investments.

        I'm all for open source and shaming old Microsoft for it's crimes, but you're ridiculously off base.
        Richard A Simpson
        • Now who is being naive ?

          Big company cultures don't change course so quickly.
          M$ is attempting the 3E approach used so successfully by Apple:
          Embrace, Extend, Extinguish.
          • addendum

            M$ has a track record i.e Kerberos.
            Google also used it against RSS
          • Gates hates Open Source

            When I saw Bill Gates last on Charley Rose, Charles ask him what do people get the worlds richest man for Christmas? And Bill Gates answered, free software. Then he said, just kidding. He said it with a smirk on his face. Linux ran Microsoft through with a dagger and now we listen the agonizing howls of a beast dying in the cold.
            Tim Jordan
        • BUT, think of the corporate

          ... policies that MS has laid all of these years. I agree that the problem is not the core
          of Windows; mobile or otherwise. The problem is the attitude at Redmond.
          I am a dedicated .NET designer/programmer and I love the tools I have to create apps but even at that, I have to pay for that pleasure. At least with open-source, the developers do not have to shell out bucks when there is a new framework change. At least I hope not ;) If MS wants to be back on top, they need to rid themselves of (face)Balmer and change the internal attitudes back to what made them great.
          • I'm not sure if I understand.

            As far as I know, .NET is free (beer) and so is the express versions of Visual Studio and SQL Server which are extremely full featured. It's just advanced features that you get from the full versions. Microsoft actually does a lot to let developers create apps for free with their tools. What bucks are you shelling out when there is a new framework change?
      • Go lick your mac

        Why OSX, iTunes, iOS are close sourced then?
        • Perhaps

          So Apple can make money off their software/programming investments?
          Sam Wagner
          • Are we using the same definition?

            I fail to see how making a piece of software Open Source (I can see the source code so I can review it) would make Apple loose money? OpenSource does NOT mean free. I would invest MORE heavily in Apple software if it was Open Source. I would do this because it would be open to the public for review. as it stands the kernel is Open Source. The nice thing about this is you can write software that can identify shenanigans and trust the results.
            Everett Vinzant
          • How would making the programs

            open source not make them free? You could compile them on your own for free. You still have to pay for in app purchases, but that's it. Making most paid software open source would kill it and open it up to community driven forks, which would be bad for overall consistency. In addition they'd likely lose some of their power protecting any intellectual property they has baked into the software.
            Sam Wagner
          • Example of where you are wrong

            RedHat Enterprise. They built the os using fedora core. The source is available. Yet they own it and provide an incredible service behind it. They charge to get their version but if you want to re-brand and create your own, you can.
            Jay Asbury
          • Wrong on red hat

            Red Hat contains a lot of proprietary closed source technology that's not included in the open source variants such as CentOS.
        • Wait, what?

          OS X closed source? Uhm, no. Darwin (the kernel) is open source. The windows manager that Apple uses is closed source. You can run X Windows on Darwin though. I do this sometimes...

          iOS? Fail 2. iOS is based on OS X. Some parts of it are based on open source code.

          iTunes? Are you sure you want to bring Apps in to a conversation that has been focus on OS's? Second, iTunes? Really? Because it's the best software that Apple makes? Look, I use iTunes because of the whole ecosystem thing. It's not my favorite. It has lots of flaws (resource utilization). But that is the application you call out? iTunes?
          Everett Vinzant
          • An OS is more than a kernel

            OS X is, overall, Closed Source.
            Michael Alan Goff
    • No they're not

      Typescript is awesome!
    • ...those are all small or failed projects

      Linuxgeek, You really an id**t. I've read most of your hate posts with reacting but this one truly demonstrate how a j*rk you are. MVC is very far from a small or failed project. You've are very fast on your guns, bashing anything about MS no matter how good or bad a product or a service is presented. You should not even consider using a mouse or a keyboard. You don't have the required judgment to take part in this debate. Bring some arguments, not your hate. You know nothing and shouldn't play with the grown up.
      • Sorry for my poor English, but this post should be a bit better (why no Edi

        Linuxgeek, You really are an id**t. I've read most of your hate posts without reacting but this one truly demonstrate how much of a j*rk you are. MVC is very far from a small or a failed project. It is faster, more secure, more opened than any of the crappy PHP workframe out there. It is getting a lot of attention these days and it is often chosen for large web platforms all over the world. You are very fast on your guns, bashing anything about MS no matter what is presented. You should not even consider using a mouse or a keyboard. You don't have the required judgment to do so or to take part in this debate. Bring some arguments, not your hate. You know nothing and shouldn't play with the grownups.
        • ASP.NET

          While I agree with you that it is not a failed tech I can also agree to not agree.
          LAMP is very much on-top. It is not proprietary and is very much the most
          preferred method in the industry. In this era of cost-cutting, most companies
          are looking for an expandable tech that is not going to cost them an arm and a leg.
          As a .NET programmer I very much value LAMP methodologies as it is low-cost
          and in the reach of anyone without having to pay someone a license fee!
          the Geek was just stating the obvious.