Microsoft and Open Source are two terms that are almost never seen in the same headline, unless it’s a negative one.
And yet today Scott Gu’s blog announced that .NET 3.5 is going open-source … kind of.
First of all, it won’t be fully open-source. At least, not at first. The move to open up .NET will be gradual, but eventually all class libraries will be open. Eventually.
Second of all, it is released under MS-RL, Microsoft Reference License. This is the most restrictive of all of the Microsoft shared source licenses. Essentially this means you can look, but not touch. The license is for reference only, accordig to Redmond.
This news will be disappointing to the many of Open Source gurus out there hoping Microsoft will jump on the open source bandwagon. It’s not really in the spirit of open source to release something that cannot be changed or touched at all.
So what does this news really mean?
For .NET developers this means that the code they are running their programs on can be debugged. An integrated debugger for .NET built into Visual Studio 2008 will allow devs to step into the .NET code and view the stack calls there.
Useful in some situations. Definitely a good PR move for Microsoft as well. The appearance of embracing open source without actually having to go through with it.
In all seriousness, what harm would it do to allow users to alter and redistribute their own additions to .NET? Microsoft releases the framework for free anyway, it’s not like it is a product in and of itself. You would think that they would appreciate the extra hands that would work on .NET for free.
Ultimately though, another added benefit is that more eyes can now look at the source and identify bugs. Right now it is somewhat difficult to report obscure bugs, as you need to get a tech support agent to reproduce the error. Then you generally get the message that your problem will be relayed to a developer, and that’s the end of it.
Now, with all eyes on Microsoft, hopefully they will see that people appreciate the gesture, but ultimately crave more.
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