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State of Open Source in .NET

by Pierre-Luc Maheu on Feb 24, 2016 |

Some open source contributors recently raised concerns about the current state of open source in .NET. Discussions revolve around contributing to projects, both as an individual and as an enterprise. The role of Microsoft in the .NET ecosystem is also at the center of the debate.

Itamar Syn-Hershko, contributor to Lucene.NET, states the way which the .NET ecosystem was traditionally led is in part responsible for the mentality of using open source software and not contributing back:

Historically, Microsoft is a product company which makes it’s living from selling its products. An operating system, word processors, development tools, databases - every product is sold, and usually not for cheap. When working or developing on the Microsoft stack, free tools never go unnoticed.
This, in turn, gets one to a dangerous state of mind where free equals someone was sucker enough to do this potentially expensive work for me. I would thank them, maybe, perhaps, but this was made for me to use - and for free. There is no notion of giving away or forming community projects. It’s free as in no money involved; where the distinction between “free as in beer” and “free as in speech” means nothing, because - hey, who cares, it’s free.

On Twitter, most replies were on project sponsorship. Jimmy Boggard writes:

There’s a huge difference in needs from libraries and frameworks. Frameworks need sponsors.

Christos Matskas writes:

Many companies have silly IP restrictions around OSS contributions. This is what needs changing.

On Reddit. Manitcor also criticize the lack of corporate sponsorship:

To support open source at all the .NET based companies I have seen would require the developer to “go rogue” and do it on their own. While supporting OSS is a laudable goal I don’t see many people risking their jobs over it.

While some users attribute the situation to Microsoft to some degree, others think their decision to open source .NET related frameworks and products will make a difference. JustMake writes:

Microsoft’s involvement in this sets a precedent that cannot be understated. A while back, I submitted an issue on VS 2015 and got an email update from a developer that he’d fixed the issue. He even linked me to the Github issue for it. It’s very different from previous Microsoft engagements, where you couldn’t talk with a developer without opening an issue and accepting the possibility of billing. This type of things will start to change the minds of people used to the idea that code can’t be shared.

Sean Killeen also thinks the situation is improving, stating open source growth in .NET is accelerating :

I see a growing number of developers all around me excited about OSS in the .NET ecosystem, and they understand the importance of giving back. Like me, I think they’re hovering around the edges and dipping their toes in the water, waiting for the right time to jump in or becoming incrementally more involved. I think a new generation of .NET developers is coming of age – or being reincarnated. Now that OSS is backed by a huge group of passionate people – and to a much greater extent these days, Microsoft itself – I hope we’ll go beyond seeing the fruits of the labor of people like Itamar, to actually helping them plant some seeds.

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