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Microsoft just edged out Facebook and proved that it's changed in an important way

Satya Nadella LinuxMicrosoftMicrosoft CEO Satya Nadella

Over the course of the 90’s and ’00’s, Microsoft became notorious for competing aggressively with the very concept of open source — free software, developed by teams of volunteer programmers from all over the world.

Since Satya Nadella took the CEO job at Microsoft in 2014, the company’s views towards open source have evolved. Microsoft has embraced open source, and even supports the open source Linux operating system on its Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform.

And if you didn’t believe the love is real, GitHub — the so-called “Facebook for programmers,” and the hub of the open source world — released new stats today about which companies have the most employees contributing code to open source projects.

And Microsoft weighs in at #1, with 16,419 contributors, edging out Facebook with 15,682.

Here’s the chart:

Github open source codeGitHub

This is an important milestone for Microsoft, which has been fighting with Amazon to win customers over to its Microsoft Azure cloud.

The vast majority of businesses large and small have turned to open source programs in at least some capacity to help meet the demands of the internet era. The Linux operating system, once Microsoft’s most bitter rival, is now the de facto standard operating system for lots of corporate servers, even if it never caught on as a desktop OS.

And so, Microsoft’s kneejerk rejection of open source became a liability, as it tried to convince CIOs to move their server infrastructure up to the Microsoft Azure cloud. That’s why Nadella has made it such a point to claim that “Microsoft loves Linux,” and why Microsoft has released certain key technologies as open source.

So if Microsoft is #1 in open source contributions, it proves that the company is practicing what it preaches and not just talking a big game.

The data isn’t perfect, since it only relies on GitHub information available publicly — lots of businesses and project teams use GitHub in a private mode to quietly share their code. But it’s still a big step forward for Microsoft.

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