Open source is an immensely important aspect of many tech professionals’ jobs. Open source projects and software power tech stacks all over the world. For tech professionals, open source also provides a valuable opportunity to start contributing to larger projects and developing skills.
If you’re hunting for the biggest open source projects to contribute to (or get inspiration for your own software projects), it always pays to visit GitHub, the largest repository for open source projects. Whether you’re searching for open source projects for beginners, or you want to use open source for a more advanced project such as computer vision or machine learning, it will have something for you.
GitHub is used by tens of millions of people, so whatever behavior you observe on it is a pretty good barometer of some tech-industry trends. If you see a trending repository, chances are good it’s for something useful. The top projects draw tens of thousands of contributors—but even the most popular projects face risk of abandonment if they don’t deliver what developers and users ultimately need. With all that in mind, what are the most popular open source projects?
Most Popular GitHub Open Source Projects by Size
What are GitHub’s largest projects by contributor numbers? When projects become popular, they also enjoy considerable spikes in contributions, as the following list from GitHub’s State of the Octoverse report shows:
Averaging 19.8k contributors, this Microsoft-managed repository hosts code for the Visual Studio Code platform. In addition to code, it features product roadmaps and plans.
Averaging 13.5k contributors, this home-automation repository provides the code necessary for tech pros to create a “smarter” home.
Averaging 12.4k contributors, this repository is where Google stores its Flutter SDK for user experience development on mobile, web, and desktop.
Averaging 12.3k contributors, this repository hosts documentation for Microsoft’s sprawling Azure cloud platform.
Averaging 7.5k contributors, PowerToys code allows “power users” (in Microsoft’s parlance) to adjust and tinker with Windows. It features the product roadmap and regular updates of bugs and known issues.
Averaging 5.9k contributors, this is the repository for next.js, an open source web development framework.
Averaging 4.8k contributors, this repository is stuffed with more than 80,000 software packages that you can install with the Nix package manager. Its managers claim it’s one of the most active projects on GitHub.
Averaging 4.53k contributors, this repository features React components. If you’re interested in building Android apps and services, note it also has Material UI, which implements Google’s Material Design UI/UX guidelines and components.
Averaging 4.4k contributors, this repository is where you’d go to access TensorFlow, the open-source machine learning framework that’s increasingly popular among tech pros who work with artificial intelligence (A.I.) and machine learning.
Most Popular GitHub Open Source Projects by First-Time Contributors
For tech pros who are just starting out, some of the largest open-source repositories offer lots of opportunities to contribute in a meaningful way (and learn a little something about coding and debugging). Here are some of the most popular repositories for first-time contributors on GitHub, in descending order; as you can see, many of them are choosing to participate in projects based in Microsoft’s ecosystem.
If it’s your first time working within a particular repository, it can pay to start small. Squish a few minor bugs, or try to leave a helpful comment on someone’s code. As you develop a rapport with others in a community, you may be invited to tackle bigger things. If you’re lucky, the company maintaining the repo or product may even offer to pay you to take on bigger, more complicated tasks.
Open source covers literally every aspect of modern tech, from the cloud and container technologies to cybersecurity and A.I./machine learning. Whatever your career path, becoming as familiar as possible what everything that open source potentially has to offer is a must, especially since many organizations rely at least partially on open-source tech in order to accomplish their tech-related goals.