A study from Aiven of GitHub, the repository hosting service, finds the total number of active contributors to GitHub from Amazon, Microsoft, and Google has increased by 300 percent in six years — from 2,654 contributors in May 2016 to 10,549 in May 2022.
The research is based on data from the Open Source Contributor Index and shows Google is stepping up its efforts, with active contributors to GitHub (4,643) overtaking Microsoft’s contributions (4,394) for the first time since records began in 2016.
Over a third of Microsoft’s OSS contributions are in programming languages that are maintained by Microsoft. 38.8 percent of languages it uses are either PowerShell or C# — both originally developed by Microsoft. Google on the other hand prefers C++ and Java, and Amazon contributes in Python and Java.
Heikki Nousiainen, field CTO and co-founder at Aiven, says:
Our research shows that the hyperscalers are contributing more resources to open source. This is great news. As a community, open source software needs this sort of commitment from big tech to ensure that important projects are maintained and that vulnerabilities such as Log4Shell don’t happen again. More than this, it’s a better way to write clean, transparent, secure code.
An unexpected result of our research was seeing Google overtake Microsoft in terms of the number of its staff contributing to open source software. Google has championed open source since its early days and recently announced its Assured Open Source Software service, reaffirming that commitment.
Google surpassing Microsoft is particularly surprising, as a factor in this has been a decline in Microsoft’s year-on-year commits to open source projects. However, Microsoft commitment to developer freedom and innovation is consistent, with the company being a major player in open source, and even purchasing GitHub in 2018. The switch is testament to the market increasingly looking to capitalise on open source software.
However, Aiven’s research into commits — the submissions of new software patches to open source projects — finds that the number of commits to GitHub from Microsoft and Google is still behind highs reached in summer 2020, although the difference between the two has reduced.
Although Amazon still lags behind its hyperscale competitors it’s now backing large open source projects such as OpenSearch, a fork of ElasticSearch, and it is also hosting a growing number of projects on its GitHub page.