Charles Young

  Home  |   Contact  |   Syndication    |   Login
  196 Posts | 64 Stories | 510 Comments | 373 Trackbacks

News

Twitter












Article Categories

Archives

Post Categories

Image Galleries

Alternative Feeds

BizTalk Bloggers

BizTalk Sites

CEP Bloggers

CMS Bloggers

Fun

Other Bloggers

Rules Bloggers

SharePoint Bloggers

Utilities

WF Bloggers

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 #

For the last decade, I have repeatedly, in my imitable Microsoft fan boy style, offered an alternative view to commonly held beliefs about Microsoft's stance on open source licensing.  In earlier times, leading figures in Microsoft were very vocal in resisting the idea that commercial licensing is outmoded or morally reprehensible.  Many people interpreted this as all-out corporate opposition to open source licensing.  I never read it that way. It is true that I've met individual employees of Microsoft who are antagonistic towards FOSS (free and open source software), but I've met more who are supportive or at least neutral on the subject.  In any case, individual attitudes of employees don't necessarily reflect a corporate stance.  The strongest opposition I've encountered has actually come from outside the company.  It's not a charitable thought, but I sometimes wonder if there are people in the .NET community who are opposed to FOSS simply because they believe, erroneously, that Microsoft is opposed.

Here, for what it is worth, are the points I've repeated endlessly over the years and which have often been received with quizzical scepticism.

a)  A decade ago, Microsoft's big problem was not FOSS per se, or even with copyleft.  The thing which really kept them awake at night was the fear that one day, someone might find, deep in the heart of the Windows code base, some code that should not be there and which was published under GPL.  The likelihood of this ever happening has long since faded away, but there was a time when MS was running scared.  I suspect this is why they held out for a while from making Windows source code open to inspection.  Nowadays, as an MVP, I am positively encouraged to ask to see Windows source.

b)  Microsoft has never opposed the open source community.  They have had problems with specific people and organisations in the FOSS community.  Back in the 1990s, Richard Stallman gave time and energy to a successful campaign to launch antitrust proceedings against Microsoft.  In more recent times, the negative attitude of certain people to Microsoft's submission of two FOSS licences to the OSI (both of which have long since been accepted), and the mad scramble to try to find any argument, however tenuous, to block their submission was not, let us say, edifying.

c) Microsoft has never, to my knowledge, written off the FOSS model.  They certainly don't agree that more traditional forms of licensing are inappropriate or immoral, and they've always been prepared to say so. 

One reason why it was so hard to convince people that Microsoft is not rabidly antagonistic towards FOSS licensing is that so many people think they have no involvement in open source.  A decade ago, there was virtually no evidence of any such involvement.  However, that was a long time ago.  Quietly over the years, Microsoft has got on with the job of working out how to make use of FOSS licensing and how to support the FOSS community.  For example, as well as making increasingly extensive use of Github, they run an important FOSS forge (CodePlex) on which they, themselves, host many hundreds of distinct projects.  The total count may even be in the thousands now.  I suspect there is a limit of about 500 records on CodePlex searches because, for the past few years, whenever I search for Microsoft-specific projects on CodePlex, I always get approx. 500 hits.  Admittedly, a large volume of the stuff they publish under FOSS licences amounts to code samples, but many of those 'samples' have grown into useful and fully featured frameworks, libraries and tools.

All this is leading up to the observation that yesterday's announcement by Scott Guthrie marks a significant milestone and should not go unnoticed.  If you missed it, let me summarise.   From the first release of .NET, Microsoft has offered a web development framework called ASP.NET.  The core libraries are included in the .NET framework which is released free of charge, but which is not open source.   However, in recent years, the number of libraries that constitute ASP.NET have grown considerably.  Today, most professional ASP.NET web development exploits the ASP.NET MVC framework.  This, together with several other important parts of the ASP.NET technology stack, is released on CodePlex under the Apache 2.0 licence.   Hence, today, a huge swathe of web development on the .NET/Azure platform relies four-square on the use of FOSS frameworks and libraries.

Yesterday, Scott Guthrie announced the next stage of ASP.NET's journey towards FOSS nirvana.  This involves extending ASP.NET's FOSS stack to include Web API and the MVC Razor view engine which is rapidly becoming the de facto 'standard' for building web pages in ASP.NET.  However, perhaps the more important announcement is that the ASP.NET team will now accept and review contributions from the community.  Scott points out that this model is already in place elsewhere in Microsoft, and specifically draws attention to development of the Windows Azure SDKs.  These SDKs are central to Azure development.   The .NET and Java SDKs are published under Apache 2.0 on Github and Microsoft is open to community contributions.  Accepting contributions is a more profound move than simply releasing code under FOSS licensing.  It means that Microsoft is wholeheartedly moving towards a full-blooded open source approach for future evolution of some of their central and most widely used .NET and Azure frameworks and libraries.  In conjunction with Scott's announcement, Microsoft has also released Git support for CodePlex (at long last!) and, perhaps more importantly, announced significant new investment in their own FOSS forge.

Here at Solidsoft we have several reasons to be very interested in Scott's announcement. I'll draw attention to one of them.  Earlier this year we wrote the initial version of a new UK Government web application called CloudStore.  CloudStore provides a way for local and central government to discover and purchase applications and services. We wrote the web site using ASP.NET MVC which is FOSS.  However, this point has been lost on the ladies and gentlemen of the press and, I suspect, on some of the decision makers on the government side.  They announced a few weeks ago that future versions of CloudStore will move to a FOSS framework, clearly oblivious of the fact that it is already built on a FOSS framework.  We are, it is fair to say, mildly irked by the uninformed and badly out-of-date assumption that “if it is Microsoft, it can't be FOSS”.  Old prejudices live on.
For the last decade, I have repeatedly, in my imitable Microsoft fan boy style, offered an alternative view to commonly held beliefs about Microsoft's stance on open source licensing.  In earlier times, leading figures in Microsoft were very vocal in resisting the idea that commercial licensing is outmoded or morally reprehensible.  Many people interpreted this as all-out corporate opposition to open source licensing.  I never read it that way. It is true that I've met individual employees of Microsoft who are antagonistic towards FOSS (free and open source software), but I've met more who are supportive or at least neutral on the subject.  In any case, individual attitudes of employees don't necessarily reflect a corporate stance.  The strongest opposition I've encountered has actually come from outside the company.  It's not a charitable thought, but I sometimes wonder if there are people in the .NET community who are opposed to FOSS simply because they believe, erroneously, that Microsoft is opposed.

Here, for what it is worth, are the points I've repeated endlessly over the years and which have often been received with quizzical scepticism.

a)  A decade ago, Microsoft's big problem was not FOSS per se, or even with copyleft.  The thing which really kept them awake at night was the fear that one day, someone might find, deep in the heart of the Windows code base, some code that should not be there and which was published under GPL.  The likelihood of this ever happening has long since faded away, but there was a time when MS was running scared.  I suspect this is why they held out for a while from making Windows source code open to inspection.  Nowadays, as an MVP, I am positively encouraged to ask to see Windows source.

b)  Microsoft has never opposed the open source community.  They have had problems with specific people and organisations in the FOSS community.  Back in the 1990s, Richard Stallman gave time and energy to a successful campaign to launch antitrust proceedings against Microsoft.  In more recent times, the negative attitude of certain people to Microsoft's submission of two FOSS licences to the OSI (both of which have long since been accepted), and the mad scramble to try to find any argument, however tenuous, to block their submission was not, let us say, edifying.

c) Microsoft has never, to my knowledge, written off the FOSS model.  They certainly don't agree that more traditional forms of licensing are inappropriate or immoral, and they've always been prepared to say so. 

One reason why it was so hard to convince people that Microsoft is not rabidly antagonistic towards FOSS licensing is that so many people think they have no involvement in open source.  A decade ago, there was virtually no evidence of any such involvement.  However, that was a long time ago.  Quietly over the years, Microsoft has got on with the job of working out how to make use of FOSS licensing and how to support the FOSS community.  For example, as well as making increasingly extensive use of Github, they run an important FOSS forge (CodePlex) on which they, themselves, host many hundreds of distinct projects.  The total count may even be in the thousands now.  I suspect there is a limit of about 500 records on CodePlex searches because, for the past few years, whenever I search for Microsoft-specific projects on CodePlex, I always get approx. 500 hits.  Admittedly, a large volume of the stuff they publish under FOSS licences amounts to code samples, but many of those 'samples' have grown into useful and fully featured frameworks, libraries and tools.

All this is leading up to the observation that yesterday's announcement by Scott Guthrie marks a significant milestone and should not go unnoticed.  If you missed it, let me summarise.   From the first release of .NET, Microsoft has offered a web development framework called ASP.NET.  The core libraries are included in the .NET framework which is released free of charge, but which is not open source.   However, in recent years, the number of libraries that constitute ASP.NET have grown considerably.  Today, most professional ASP.NET web development exploits the ASP.NET MVC framework.  This, together with several other important parts of the ASP.NET technology stack, is released on CodePlex under the Apache 2.0 licence.   Hence, today, a huge swathe of web development on the .NET/Azure platform relies four-square on the use of FOSS frameworks and libraries.

Yesterday, Scott Guthrie announced the next stage of ASP.NET's journey towards FOSS nirvana.  This involves extending ASP.NET's FOSS stack to include Web API and the MVC Razor view engine which is rapidly becoming the de facto 'standard' for building web pages in ASP.NET.  However, perhaps the more important announcement is that the ASP.NET team will now accept and review contributions from the community.  Scott points out that this model is already in place elsewhere in Microsoft, and specifically draws attention to development of the Windows Azure SDKs.  These SDKs are central to Azure development.   The .NET and Java SDKs are published under Apache 2.0 on Github and Microsoft is open to community contributions.  Accepting contributions is a more profound move than simply releasing code under FOSS licensing.  It means that Microsoft is wholeheartedly moving towards a full-blooded open source approach for future evolution of some of their central and most widely used .NET and Azure frameworks and libraries.  In conjunction with Scott's announcement, Microsoft has also released Git support for CodePlex (at long last!) and, perhaps more importantly, announced significant new investment in their own FOSS forge.

Here at Solidsoft we have several reasons to be very interested in Scott's announcement. I'll draw attention to one of them.  Earlier this year we wrote the initial version of a new UK Government web application called CloudStore.  CloudStore provides a way for local and central government to discover and purchase applications and services. We wrote the web site using ASP.NET MVC which is FOSS.  However, this point has been lost on the ladies and gentlemen of the press and, I suspect, on some of the decision makers on the government side.  They announced a few weeks ago that future versions of CloudStore will move to a FOSS framework, clearly oblivious of the fact that it is already built on a FOSS framework.  We are, it is fair to say, mildly irked by the uninformed and badly out-of-date assumption that “if it is Microsoft, it can't be FOSS”.  Old prejudices live on.