Microsoft Corp. sent shockwaves through the tech world a couple of years back when it first began seriously embracing open-source software, and now the company can proudly boast that it has the largest number of contributors to projects on GitHub.
The Git repository hosting service yesterday revealed that 16,419 contributors who’re affiliated with Microsoft have worked on GitHub open-source projects over the past year, putting the company ahead of organizations such as Facebook Inc. (with 15,682 contributors), Docker Inc. (14,059) and Angular (12,841).
Of course, it also means that Microsoft is ahead of Google Inc., a company that identifies with the open-source software movement more than most others. Google had 12,140 contributors working on GitHub projects in the last year, GitHub said.
We probably shouldn’t be all that surprised at the news, though. While Microsoft was long considered to be the arch nemesis of open source, the company has performed a complete about-face under the leadership of Chief Executive Satya Nadella, contributing to numerous projects and also open-sourcing many of its own technologies in recent months, such as PowerShell, .NET and its machine learning framework CNTK.
Microsoft’s love affair with open-source technologies underscores a wider trend that has seen large corporations increasingly take the lead on all manner of open-source projects. It’s a dramatic change from a decade ago, when larger vendors jealously guarded their technologies under proprietary software licenses. These days it’s quite the opposite, as large vendors have almost universally come to realize that open-sourcing leads to greater innovation.
GitHub’s data isn’t perfect, since it takes into account only information that’s been shared publicly. Lots of companies also use GitHub in private mode to share code quietly. But nonetheless, it’s clearly an enormous step for Microsoft.
GitHub CEO Chris Wanstrath believes Microsoft is truly committed to the open source movement. In an interview with Fortune, he noted, “The big .Net project has more people outside of Microsoft contributing to it than people who work at Microsoft.”