Is Microsoft an open source company?

The most popular open source projects run on Windows. What does that make Microsoft?

When thinking about open source, most people immediately think Linux, Apache, Mozilla to name a few of the many projects currently being developed. Of course, there are thousands of open source projects and I wanted to see what platform these projects were running on. To my surprise, I found a great deal of Windows open source projects and was even shocked by my search of the most popular open source projects on SourceForge. Here are the top 10 applications (all time) on SourceForge:

* eMule - Windows only file sharing tool

* Azureus / Vuze - Windows, Mac & Linux p2p client

* Ares Galaxy - Windows p2p client

* 7-ZIP - Windows file compression

* FileZilla - Windows, Mac, & Linux file sharing

* Smart Package of Microsoft's core fonts - Linux, UNIX, BSD, etc

* GTK+ and GIMP Installers for Windows - Windows

* Audacity - All OS ; audio editor

* Portable - Windows app portability on devices

* DC++ - Windows file sharing client

Every item on this list showed a solution for the Windows platform which goes against the general consensus that open source is just for Linux and certainly not Windows. This surprise lead me to the Microsoft Open Source (who knew they had one?) web site at where you can see all the open source projects currently being built for the Windows platform. A search of highlighted projects shows well over 150 open source projects currently being hosted on, Microsoft's open source project host; similar to SourceForge. It truly is amazing to see that the open source community is actively building solutions for the closed-source Windows platform.

So, with the great amount of open source applications being built on the Windows platform and the support infrastructure from Microsoft, can we call Microsoft an open source (friendly) company? Of course, Microsoft does have a great deal of proprietary software for sale but I am impressed by the amount of effort being shown by Microsoft in open sourcing some of their technologies and their support of open source development on the Windows platform.

I realize that Microsoft is not a core open source company and they will continue to battle Linux in ways that are both proper and somewhat deceptive (see patents and Linux), but is it time we in the open source community start accepting Microsoft as a part of our community and assist them in opening more of their technology? Can we now officially end the "Microsoft is the Devil" argument and focus on more productive efforts to work together or is Microsoft forever the enemy of open source?


Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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