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Russia tops national leagues in open source downloads

Putin FOSS to work when Microsoft et al abandoned pariah state

Russia tops the global table for downloads of open source software over the last quarter, according to a survey tracking around 2,000 FOSS projects.

Research by open source monitoring organization Scarf showed the biggest proliferation of downloads took place in the pariah state, where they grew 320 percent. Russia, which was hit by international trade sanctions after it invaded Ukraine in February 2022, has seen commercial software vendors pull sales, development, services, and support from within its borders.

Open source software is a license rather than a product that can be sanctioned, although debate rages about whether the open source movement's leading organizations should restrict downloads to countries with sketchy regimes.

However, sanctions may not be the only reason for Russia's accelerating interest in open source software. Ireland (290 percent), the Netherlands (290 percent) and Belgium (240 percent) also saw steep increases in their quarterly download figures, according to the Scarf data.

Scarf claims to act something like Google Analytics for open source. It employs a combination of download headers and metadata, together with analysis of documentation, READMEs, and other content. In December 2021, Scarf attracted $7.3 million funding for its open source analytics. It currently tracks around 2,000 projects.

Overall, the number of enterprises downloading open source software between Q4 2022 and Q1 2023 grew 18.5 percent, yet the total number of downloads by enterprises decreased 26 percent, owing to the regular cadence of commercial open source project releases, Scarf said.

Downloads from all organizations grew nearly 60 percent to just over 240 million. Less than 0.5 percent of these were down to new packages on the market.

Tech firms led the large corporations in the most downloads of open source software. Oracle came top followed by Apple, Cisco and Microsoft. General Motors was the non-tech company downloading the most open source software, lying in fifth place overall.

"This quarter, we saw a huge amount of growth in demand for open source software downloads across projects on Scarf," said CEO Avi Press. "This was due to organic demand for those projects within enterprises. At a time when organizations are looking for ways to innovate and to save on budgets, it should not be a surprise that teams turn to open source software to achieve their goals."

As for Russia, it is unlikely the world of proprietary software vendors will officially/legitimately return anytime soon, at least not while Vladimir Putin continues to attack Ukraine. ®

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