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I recently read that Microsoft has become a Platinum member of the Linux Foundation.

The Linux Foundation website lists various companies as "Platinum Members", "Gold Members", "Silver Members" and "Affiliates".

What exactly is the difference between these different membership levels?

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(disclosure: I am a supporter and my company is a silver member of the Linux Foundation).

TL;DR: Higher levels of membership pay bigger fees and have more say in the running of the Foundation with Board of Directors seats.

Yearly fee for Platinum is $500K+, Gold is $100K, Silver is $5K to $20K. Individual supporters pay $99 and Student get in for free.

Now the question you did not ask and that I shall dare to answer is:

Could Microsoft use its LF membership to impede Linux progress?

The short answer is no. The LF bylaws have several checks and balances built-in. And the kernel contributors are contributing independently of the LF anyway.

in details

Per the LF bylaws Section 3.2 - Membership Qualifications and Section 3.3 - Affiliates here are the classes:

The following shall be the requirements for membership in each membership class:

(a) Platinum Members. The Platinum Members shall be individuals and entities that engage in or support the production, manufacture, use, sale, or standardization of Linux or other open source-based technologies. [...] (b) Gold Members. Gold Members shall be individuals and entities that engage in or support the production, manufacture, use, sale, or standardization of Linux or other open source-based technologies. [...]

(c) Silver Members. Silver Members shall be individuals and entities that engage in or support the production, manufacture, use, sale, or standardization of Linux or other open source-based technologies. [...]

a) Affiliates. The Board of Directors may establish one or more classes of individuals or entities associated with this corporation. Such individuals or entities shall be referred to as “Advisors,” “Affiliates,” “Associates,” “Contributors,” or any other title as the Board of Directors deems appropriate (collectively, the “Affiliates”).

The membership fee schedule is:

Platinum
    US$ 500,000
Gold
    US$ 100,000
Silver
    US$ 20,000 (employee size greater than 5,000)
    US$ 15,000 (employee size between 500 and 4,999)
    US$ 10,000 (employee size between 100 and 499)
    US$ 5,000 (employee size <100)

And for individual supporters:

Individual $99
Student Free

The membership class influence who is on the board per Article V:

  • each platinum member has a seat on the board
  • all gold members have three seats jointly
  • all silver members have one seat jointly

Therefore a platinum has more influence on the directions of the LF and has as much influence as all the silver members taken together.

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