The Rise of Closed Source AI Tool Integrations

July 10, 2024 | 6 min Read

Software development tools and IDEs have traditionally leaned towards openness and transparency. Much like a mechanic who tunes and customizes their own car for optimal performance, this trend has empowered developers to understand, modify, and improve their tools, fostering a culture of innovation and collaboration. However, a concerning shift has emerged in recent years with the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into these tools.

The Shift to Closed Source

For decades, open-source software has been the backbone of many development environments, offering developers the freedom to customize and optimize their tools. This openness has been crucial for fostering innovation and ensuring security. Developers could inspect the code, understand how their tools worked, and make necessary adjustments to fit their specific needs.

However, the advent of AI-powered development tools has partly disrupted this paradigm. Leading tools like GitHub Copilot or Cursor IDE have introduced groundbreaking features that leverage AI to assist developers. These tools promise to enhance productivity by offering intelligent code suggestions, automating repetitive tasks, and even predicting what developers might write next. While these advancements are undeniably beneficial, they come at a cost: the erosion of transparency and openness.

The Issue of Proprietary AI Integrations

Many AI-powered development tools today are proprietary, and this closed nature extends beyond the underlying Large Language Models (LLMs) to the tool integrations themselves. This means that not only are the AI models often closed source, but the components that interface with these models (a.k.a. “agents”) are also proprietary. These black-box components operate within the IDE where the most sensitive intellectual property of companies often resides. The inability to inspect and understand these components is particularly concerning from a security and privacy standpoint. This raises several critical issues:

Lack of Transparency:

Developers are in the dark about what data is being sent from the development environment to and received from the AI models. This lack of visibility can lead to trust issues, as it is unclear how sensitive data is being handled. This is particularly troubling given the sensitive nature of code and project data. The absence of transparency makes it impossible to evaluate the associated risks and determine if they comply with organizational policies.

Limited Customizability:

AI prompt templates and flows are often hidden from users. This means developers cannot tailor the AI interactions to better suit their specific workflows or optimize them for particular tasks. This hinders innovation, especially since providing good context and prompts is often essential for efficient AI assistance. Due to closed solutions, users cannot contribute to optimizing this aspect.

Restricted Flexibility:

Users are typically locked into using specific AI models and cloud services chosen by the tool providers. Additionally, the underlying LLMs are often unknown, which is concerning by itself. This lack of flexibility stifles the ability to experiment with or transition to other AI solutions that might better meet their needs.

The Implications for the Developer Community

The move towards closed source and proprietary API integrations in development tools has significant implications. It undermines the principles of transparency and collaboration that have long been the foundation of the software development community. Developers are now required to place a higher level of trust in third-party providers without the ability to verify or control how their data is managed and utilized. This erosion of trust often leads organizations to face a challenging decision: they must choose between protecting their intellectual property and ensuring compliance, or capitalizing on the substantial productivity enhancements that AI could bring to software development. In environments where IP is critical and compliance cannot be verified, the use of AI in commercial settings becomes a contentious issue.

Moreover, the closed nature of these tools can hinder innovation. Without access to the underlying mechanisms of AI integrations, developers are unable to contribute to the improvement of these tools or adapt them to new and emerging needs. This proprietary approach limits the potential for community-driven enhancements and the sharing of knowledge that has been a hallmark of the open-source movement. It also forces developers into a vendor lock-in regarding the used LLM. They often do not know which LLMs are used and cannot switch to other, more suitable models. Instead, they must fully rely on one vendor to make this choice. Especially in times when new and better models are released frequently, this is not ideal.

Why Vendors Choose Closed Source AI Tool Integrations

Vendors might opt not to make their AI tool integrations open source for business reasons. These vendors often rely on subscription models to sell their products. Interestingly, based on our experience, general-purpose LLMs can solve almost all tasks and use cases that occur in tools in IDEs if you provide the right prompt and context. This suggests that developers are not inherently tied to any specific vendor for their LLM needs, as many tool integrations simply utilize off-the-shelf LLMs that are widely accessible. Therefore, the unique value added by proprietary tool integrations is relatively limited, enabling users to potentially achieve similar functionalities with readily available LLMs and the appropriate setup.

The primary differentiators for AI integrations are:

  1. User Experience (UX)
  2. Prompting Strategy

Building the right context and prompting flow is crucial for creating effective AI assistants for tools. Vendors might seek to protect these differentiators by keeping their tool integrations closed source. However, we are hopeful that the software developer community will repeat history by regaining control of their tools, and we are convinced that the open-source community is highly capable of designing robust prompting strategies and context retrieval systems themselves and eventually match—and even exceed—what closed-source vendors currently provide, due to the innovative potential that comes naturally with openness, flexibility, and collaboration.


The trend towards closed source AI tool integrations is a growing concern in the software development world. While AI has the potential to revolutionize how developers work, the lack of transparency, limited customizability, and restricted flexibility pose significant challenges. It is crucial to advocate for solutions that uphold the values of openness and transparency, ensuring that the tools we rely on empower rather than constrain the developer community. In response, the open-source community, with the active participation of organizations like EclipseSource, is mobilizing to create solutions that address these challenges, paving the way for a more open and innovative future for AI integrations in IDEs. Stay tuned and follow us for more updates on this endeavor.

EclipseSource is at the forefront of technological innovation, ready to guide and support your AI initiatives. Our comprehensive services in AI integration are designed to provide the specialized know-how necessary to develop customized, AI-enhanced solutions that elevate your tools and IDEs to new levels of efficiency and innovation. Explore how we can assist in integrating AI into your tools with our AI technology services. Reach out to begin your AI integration project with us.

Jonas, Maximilian & Philip

Jonas Helming, Maximilian Koegel and Philip Langer co-lead EclipseSource. They work as consultants and software engineers for building web-based and desktop-based tools. …