LinkedIn’s focus on open source will continue after Microsoft acquisition

Kareem Anderson

There is no question that Microsoft as a whole continues to suffer from a general public perception problem. Perhaps, more damning than the often befuddling decisions from executives within the company regarding switches to services or closure of projects is how the company’s public perception arguably supersedes its actions.

Take, for instance, Igor Perisic, the vice president of engineering at LinkedIn, explaining to eWeek during a Q&A that the company will continue its open-source technology development in light of the recent Microsoft purchase. During the enlightening Q&A discussion, Perisic explains why open source development is so important to LinkedIn, including the company’s perspective about fostering a sense of engineering comradery through its contributions to the community.

The rationale and how it became important to our culture at LinkedIn is that we have built solutions that leveraged open-source technology very early on. The whole field of engineering and the way that we think about it is that it comes down to craftsmanship. And if you believe in craftsmanship, that means that you are periodically and constantly updating and upgrading your know-how. That should mean you’re also looking at what is happening in the open-source community in a lot of domains.

Within that perspective, contributing to the open-source community is just being part of the community of engineers. For us, what we get in terms of benefit is that we continue to grow the talent of our engineers—because I believe that fundamentally engineers are made better by contributing to open-source projects than just doing things internally.

However, in spite of Microsoft’s recent efforts to not only open source its own technologies but contribute to more community efforts, eWeek’s line of questioning boomeranged back (perhaps deservedly so) to an old perception of Microsoft’s anti-open source stance on development.

Former Microsoft CEO's Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer
Former Microsoft CEO’s Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer

Will your open-source philosophy change at all when you become part of Microsoft?

Perisic’s response is a measured one, considering a few possibilities that center around the legalities of cloning and selling of similar Microsoft products, but in the end, he acknowledges the cultural shift CEO Satya Nadella has crafted within the company towards being a part of the open source community.

Before the close, I am actually not aware of one thing or another. But I will express my opinion. I don’t see it changing at all. The same mechanisms would apply. Now you could imagine a situation where if perhaps what we would like to open-source is a functionality or clone of what Microsoft is selling, then there may be a discussion. But I don’t see us ever doing that in the sense that we’re not going to build a new OS, we’re not going to invent another language and we’re not going to try to replicate any of the big enterprise software that Microsoft has. It’s not what we do anyway. The code paths are different anyway.

I actually think this is a place where we can help Microsoft because their attention to open-source was a little bit later than ours and we can share some of the processes that we have around open source to encourage individuals to contribute.

With eWeek and Perisic addressing the elephant in the room early on, the interview continues with a more direct line of open source development questioning where Perisic provides greater insight into how LinkedIn approaches open source projects, timing, and input.

While Microsoft’s rather recent foray into the open source community has made a few journalistic headlines, the company has a long way to go to overcome the long-standing public perception its acquired after years of staunch anti-open source behavior. Perhaps in the future, Microsoft’s next company purchase will not be asked if it will continue its open source development but rather how it will use Microsoft’s resources to boost its efforts.