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Microsoft's growing control of Linux
Embrace... Extend... what was that next part? I forget. I think it rhymes with "Shmextinguish".
Over the years, Microsoft executives have argued that Linux (and open source) are among the worst things in the world. Even going so far as to declare it to be a “threat” to the United States. And who can forget this absolute gem:
“Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches.” — Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer
Heck. I once stood directly in front of Steve Ballmer as he screamed about his hatred of Linux. I was so close, my glasses were covered with his spittle. True story.
Just the same, over the last few years, Microsoft has invested heavily in obtaining control over key portions of the Linux (and, to some degree, open source) ecosystem.
Let’s take a quick look at a few highlights… as a means of deducing where Microsoft’s involvement in Linux goes from here.
GitHub is the largest host of source code in the world — with over 200 Million source code repositories being used by over 83 Million programmers.
GitHub was purchased by Microsoft, in 2018, for $7.5 Billion dollars.
To make this easier… let’s keep a running list of the aspects of the Linux world that Microsoft has obtained a significant level of control over.
Microsoft controls: The largest open source code hosting on Earth.
In 2018, Microsoft purchased a keynote slot at the Southern California Linux Expo. Repeat: Microsoft paid a large sum of money to the conference in exchange for a headlining keynote slot.
During that keynote, the Microsoft executive (John Gossman) made a few statements worth noting:
“You do not generally want your developers to understand how the licences all work.”
“If you’re a larger company, you’re very likely to have a problem of controlling all of the open source activity that’s going on … it can be bad for the company, it can be bad for the community, it can be bad lots of different ways.”
You don’t want developers to understand licenses? Not having corporate control of open source is bad?
Not exactly pro-open source statements, eh?
Over the last several years, Microsoft has grown increasingly active at a wide variety of Linux and open source conferences — usually by the exact same mechanism we just talked about: giving large amounts of money to the conferences in exchange for prominent keynote spots and other prominent placement.
Microsoft controls: The largest open source code hosting on Earth, and a large portion of Linux conferences.
In 2016, Microsoft became a “Platinum Member” of The Linux Foundation (which controls the Linux trademarks and funds the work of Linux kernel maintainers).
This “Platinum Membership” cost Microsoft $500,000 (half a million dollars) per year. And, in exchange, Microsoft gained a seat on the Linux Foundation Board of Directors. Who did they appoint? John “don’t let developers understand licences” Gossman (the same guy who gave that keynote we just talked about).
In 2017, Microsoft became an “Premium Sponsor” of the Open Source Initiative, thus purchasing increasing amounts of influence among both Linux and open source organizations.
Note: The Open Source Initiative has banned 100% of their founders, has (rather strangely) promoted false information about the history of “open source”, and has a debatable amount of influence on the Linux and open source worlds. Just the same, Microsoft’s purchasing of influence here is worth noting as part of a broader pattern.
Microsoft controls: The largest open source code hosting on Earth, a large portion of Linux conferences, The Linux Foundation, and the Open Source Initiative.
Prominent Linux Contributors
It has recently come out that the creator of systemd (Lennart Poettering — who also created Pulse Audio), has begun working for Microsoft.
And this is hardly the first Linux developer to join Microsoft (either as part of an acquisition, like GitHub, or otherwise). Nor is this likely to be the last Linux developer to join up… as Microsoft currently has 645 open Linux related positions.
Want to control a piece of technology? Find the people working on said technology… and put them on your payroll. Does this give you nearly total control over that technology?
Yes. Yes, it does.
Microsoft controls: The largest open source code hosting on Earth, a large portion of Linux conferences, The Linux Foundation, the Open Source Initiative, and prominent Linux developers.
Well. If we’re simply being practical and objective… Microsoft seems to have achieved the “Embrace” and “Extend” portion of the old “Embrace. Extend. Extinguish.” business plan.
I’ll leave deducing what comes next as an exercise for the reader.