People have their reasons for pursuing open-source projects. These reasons may range from pure geekery to making a name for themselves as talented coders to monetary motives. However, why profit-seeking enterprises allocate resources to such projects may take some more explaining to do. Let's take a look at the motives behind the corporate interest in open-source projects.
Often receiving bad press due to selfish business practices they follow, big tech corporations can take advantage of open-source projects to present themselves to the wider public in a more positive light. Sharing knowledge and expertise with the larger coder community and giving back to them earn tech corporations brownie points with the public. Building a positive image in the eyes of developers can pay off in the long run and give those companies a leg up in recruiting new talent.
No matter how vast your resources are as a company, you don't always get to hire the best of the best. Some employees have long-term commitments to their respective companies, while others are located in different countries with no interest in relocation or making significant changes to their lives. Open-source projects are a great way of picking the brains of such people. Seeing open-source projects as a challenge, top developers bring their A-game to these projects and add a lot of value for free.
While CVs are good for developers who can talk the talk, open-source projects are where developers that can walk the walk can differentiate themselves. Software companies scouting talent in open-source projects are like kids in a candy store. For tech companies, open-source code samples are better indicators of coding talent than vanity-filled résumés. Having spotted talent, companies can use open-source projects to vet prospective teammates before making an official job offer. GitHub co-founder Tom Preston-Werner sums it up nicely:
"If you're hiring, the best technical interview possible is the one you don't have to do because the candidate is already kicking ass on one of your open source projects."
Open-source projects give tech corporations a sound base they can build on. The products developed on top of that base will be compatible with a whole ecosystem of other products and platforms.
During a project, a company connects and interacts with a community, nurturing a bond with them that it can leverage later. People who contribute to a project tend to be more likely to speak positively of it and even become that brand's ambassadors. An extendible ecosystem and a loyal community were Android's two biggest advantages as it vied with iOS for market share. In an ultra-competitive industry, a community with a stake in a product's success can give a company a big boost against the competition.
Open-source projects develop best practices and industry standards so that different companies do not have to reinvent the wheel at every step. Once somebody comes up with a more efficient way of executing a certain task, it becomes part of the open-source lore. Thanks to this cumulative nature of knowledge, scarce resources can better be channeled to tasks where they will create more added value.
Open-source projects bring together the most talented developers from around the world. These developers offer their expertise, share knowledge, and learn from each other. The result is usually something that tests the limits of technology, broadening the horizons of the whole industry. Whether it is cloud, app deployment, or AI, open-source projects give contributors and onlookers a glimpse into the future.
Tech corporations in the past did everything in their power to stop or undermine open-source projects. However, they finally seem to have realized that such projects are a blessing rather than a threat to their businesses. Today, open-source has become an integral part of how the software industry operates. Credit goes to tech leaders who looked for a way to leverage open-source instead of swimming against the current.