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Eclipse Foundation aims open VS Code registry at Microsoft

The Open VSX Registry is now at the Eclipse Foundation, which gives developers an open source destination to get VS Code extensions apart from the Microsoft VS Code Marketplace.

The Eclipse Foundation has taken over stewardship of the Open VSX Registry in a move that provides an open source environment where developers can get extensions to Microsoft's Visual Studio Code.

At the end of March, Eclipse said it would replace TypeFox as the host for the Open VSX Registry, a vendor-neutral and publicly hosted open source alternative to the Microsoft Visual Studio Marketplace.

"Outdoing VS Code is probably a stretch for anybody, but marketplaces are a critical tool for communities to allow extension and expansion of capabilities," said Stephen O'Grady, an analyst at RedMonk in Portland, Maine.

VS Code extension users and providers argue that the industry needs a fully open source marketplace for the extensions. That's because Microsoft forbids the use of its marketplace for non-Microsoft-branded products, as noted in the marketplace user agreement, which reads: "Marketplace Offerings are intended for use only with Visual Studio Products and Services and you may only install and use Marketplace Offerings with Visual Studio Products and Services."

Mike Milinkovich, executive director, Eclipse FoundationMike Milinkovich

Hence, Open VSX Registry came into play. The Open VSX Registry is a marketplace that lists extensions that follow the VSIX specification, which Microsoft created as the method for extending VS Code.

Microsoft Visual Studio Marketplace is a great resource for developers who use Microsoft VS products, but the problem is that given its terms of use, extensions can't be used with the increasing number of open source tools and technologies that support the VS Code extension API, said Mike Milinkovich, executive editor of the Eclipse Foundation, in a blog post.

Moreover, Microsoft does not provide access to the source code for the Visual Studio Marketplace. This means enterprise developers can't use the source code to create an internal extension registry for in-house developers, or to contribute new features and enhancements to the codebase.

There are other complications involved with VS Code, said Todd Williams, vice president of technology at Genuitec in Flower Mound, Texas.

"The VS Code binary itself is free, but not OSS [open source software], as Microsoft adds proprietary things to the build -- like telemetry -- when VS Code is shipped," he said. The free and open source software (FOSS) version of VS Code without the telemetry is called VSCodium. Yet even with VSCodium, developers can't build a full VS Code clone because some of the best parts of the lightweight code editor are not free or open source.

Outdoing VS Code is probably a stretch for anybody, but marketplaces are a critical tool for communities to allow extension and expansion of capabilities.
Stephen O'GradyAnalyst, RedMonk

Eclipse moves in

TypeFox had been hosting the Eclipse Open VSX Registry in support of their work on Eclipse Theia. However, the Eclipse Foundation is now hosting and operating the registry for the benefit of the community.

"We've been working with the committers and interested members for the past six months on this project," Milinkovich said in an interview. "The effort was supported by the Eclipse Cloud Development [Tools] Working Group as they view this as a significant enabler for Theia and Che."

The Eclipse Cloud Development Tools Working Group includes members such as Broadcom, EclipseSource, Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Red Hat, SAP and TypeFox, among others.

Unlike the Visual Studio Marketplace, the Open VSX Registry offers free access to extensions that can be used with any technology or tool, including Eclipse Che and Eclipse Theia, as well as Gitpod, SAP Business Application Studio and other applications based on Eclipse projects.

In addition, because the Eclipse Open VSX code itself is open source, developers can contribute to the registry code and reuse it as they please, Milinkovich said.

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