Microsoft Committed To Open Source

2009-04-09

OK, put your teeth back in, and consider this. DoubleClick are serving up adverts on The Register’s site, specifically on a Linux/IBM-related page, claiming the following:

Microsoft – committed to open source
Microsoft’s open source project hosting site is CodePlex. View the video for a quick tour of the site and see what’s what with Microsoft’s commitment to open source.

Clicking on the text takes you to youtube to view the video that I’ve posted below.

<Video no-longer available :-(>

What makes me laugh about this is the blatant mis-advertising: “see what’s what with Microsoft’s commitment to open source”. I watched the video from end to end, which happens to only be three minutes in duration, and saw no statements about this so-called commitment. Instead I saw some random Microsoft employee telling us about their pet project that they managed to get a department set up around.

What’s even more amazing is that they’re trying to tout just how successful the CodePlex site is by showing you the project page of “Rawr”, their most successful project. No, that in itself isn’t jaw-dropping, but the purpose and scope of the project is. Rawr, the most popular project at CP is an application that lets you compare your armour and ‘stuff’ for World of Warcraft against that for other character types. <sarcasm>OMG, like that’s world changing stuff right there!</sarcasm> Their “most popular” (a massive 23 thousand downloads in the past 7 days) project has such scope that it lets you ‘calculate your character stats’. WOW! (Literally, as World of Warcraft is often abbreviated to, WoW.) – Well, the download figures are quite impressive, but the closest rival was only 18 thousand in the same period

I guess I’m not that taken with WoW and it’s supporting community. But even so, when a company as big as Microsoft has to resort to claiming a success, with the largest item within the system happening to be completely useless to the vast majority of Microsoft customers, you have to wonder what kind of herbs they’re smoking; don’t you?

I guess what it boils down to, is that Microsoft are making tentative steps into the open source world. Yes this has to be applauded, as they’re starting to take note that open source is a paradigm-shifting phenomenon. However, I feel that Microsoft are treating open source like IBM treated it back in the late 1990s. Which brings me back to the article that I saw this advert on: IBM Fingered Over Early Linux Mistakes.

This article talks about how IBM saw open source as a “means to an end”. Rather than accepting the community for it’s collaborative power, IBM instead hired a load of developers and told them what to develop. OK these developments were open sourced and put into the mainline Linux kernel (and other projects), but it was solely because IBM saw a business need for said developments rather than because it was what the community wanted or needed.