Emma Irwin and the FOSS Fund Program

Emma Irwin joins us to talk about the FOSS Fund Program, and how Microsoft is helping the state of Open Source sustainability!


Yep. Microsoft now owns GitHub. So how much did FOSS Fund distributed over to Open Source projects that are not MS owned?

As far as I can tell, 100%. microsoft-foss-fund/README.md at main · microsoft-sponsorships/microsoft-foss-fund · GitHub

I was really grateful for this episode. Emma was excellent to talk to, particular when it came talking about how to foster a healthy ecosystem for open source.

Rather than hoping to be favoured by mega-corporate handouts (and the stifling effect they have on open communities, who quickly become dependent on such funding, and therefore easily influenced by those funding sources), the right way to make FOSS sustainable is for us all to ensure our democratic governments recognise that FOSS represents digital infrastructure. FOSS is analogous to physical public infrastructure like roads, and power grids and social institutions like public education, (outside the US) public healthcare systems, and other aspects of our Commons. It should be funded by government grants and the taxpayer for the greater good. FOSS should be what’s used in our schools, and taught in our universities.

If anything, corporate patronage - based on their self interest - is, if anything, a destablising force in FOSS. That funding can be withdrawn at any time, for any reason.

It’s disturbing to think that a $trillion corporation whose profit comes almost entirely from exploiting proprietary software monopolies and extorting software patent royalties from hundreds of hardware manufacturers is being featured in such a positive light here. Even their hosting of open source (which they trumpet at every opportunity) on their Azure platform is misdirection. Like AWS, Azure is totally proprietary and substantially more expensive (monopoly rents) than competing systems. Their only appeal is to users already locked into proprietary Microsoft-only technologies like Active Directory, which can only be hosted on Azure. Microsoft is rapidly trying to convert its global monopoly over governments and businesses desktop (locked in through Microsoft’s tight control of proprietary/fauxpen file formats & criminally anti-competitive practices) to their next-generation lock-in - their proprietary cloud platform. Nothing admirable - or even open source - there. Similarly, as @abitrolly rightly points out - their entire “open source” development platform is proprietary - at best, it exploits open source. Consider, too, that the total amount Microsoft contributes to open source with their “support” is an insignificant fraction of their (proprietary) profit.

Emma is contributing her talents and abilities to a mega-corporation that is making the world, and particularly computing, less equitable and generally worse than it should be every day. Her salary is paid entirely through the continued exploitation of users via proprietary mechanisms.

I find it disturbing to see that SustainOSS is willing to overlook the fundamental power imbalance that corporations like Microsoft represent and actively cultivate. They are effectively ‘engines of inequity’ in our world. They unashamedly use every means possible (often neither ethical nor legal, although they’re good at altering the policy playing field to their advantage thanks to “money” (i.e. corrupt) politics in countries like the US) to extract the maximum value from the world on behalf of their miniscule (by comparison) set of shareholders. That’s the single purpose they serve. Microsoft is the poster child of “do as I say, not as I do”. Working for those corporations as an open source advocate is being an unwitting PR pawn, assisting with superficial reputation laundering - the corporate model ensures this is the case.

Perhaps Microsoft loves open source the way a tapeworm loves a healthy digestive system?

I note, too, that for all their highly publicised ‘love’ for open source, they absolutely hate copyleft (except for Linux, which they can’t afford to ignore, but they get around the GPL by totally encapsulating it within Windows via WSL. Yuck). That should tell you everything you need to know: they only like what they can exploit in by making it proprietary (as is the case with Azure and Github, for example).

Also worth noting: outside of the US, Microsoft doesn’t even pretend to be pro open source (and certainly never pro Free Software/Copyleft). Here in New Zealand, they’re proprietary all the way. They focus all their spin on the US market. Even the EU is slowly realising how deeply they’ve been exploited

An interesting question would be “how many projects that were funded by MS were ones made available exclusively under a Copyleft license”…

With the launch of GitHub Sponsors, GitHub (Microsoft) did a contribution match for 1 year. I don’t know the numbers off-hand, but I expect that those donations are very significant, and are not targeted towards MS/GitHub projects.

Since this episode sparked some interesting reactions, I guess I need to listen to this episode sooner to know what’s going on :smiley:

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