Microsoft to Submit Shared Source Licenses to OSI
July 29, 2007 3 Comments
From a Radar post:
In his keynote at OSCON, Microsoft General Manager of Platform Strategy Bill Hilf announced that Microsoft is submitting its shared source licenses to the Open Source Initiative. This is a huge, long-awaited move. It will be earthshaking for both Microsoft and for the open source community if the licenses are in fact certified as open source licenses. Microsoft has been releasing a lot of software as shared source (nearly 650 projects, according to Bill). If this is suddenly certified as true open source software, it will be a lot harder to draw a bright line between Microsoft and the open source community.
Bill also announced that Microsoft has created a new top level link at microsoft.com, microsoft.com/opensource to bring together in one place all Microsoft’s open source efforts. Bill sees this as the culmination of a long process of making open source a legitimate part of Microsoft’s strategy. Open source has survived Microsoft’s process of “software darwinism” and is becoming an ever more important part of its thinking.
To expand on the announcement, it’s the Microsoft Permissive License (Ms-PL) and the Microsoft Community License (Ms-CL) that will be submitted, as the other Microsoft shared source licenses are fairly closed. I vaguely remember the FSF saying that these two licenses appeared to satisfy the four freedoms, so it’s at least a possibility that they will be approved by the OSI. So, what does this all mean? I’m still digesting it myself. It would seem that at least part of Microsoft is willing to accept the importance of Open Source in the future of software. It also means that at least parts are willing to join the conversation in a legitimate way. By going to the OSI for approval, Microsoft can no longer point at Open Source and say it’s cancer or will eat babies. I’m sure it took a lot of work internally to get this accomplished. Kudos for the effort. Will it matter? That remains to be seen. If they continue spreading patent FUD, then moves like this have far less impact than they otherwise would. It’s impossible to trust a company, even one that uses an OSI-approved license, when the other hand is doing many harmful things. It also remains to be seen how some developers will react if these get approved. Will either license get any usage outside of Redmond? If they don’t, then what’s the point of yet another Open Source license? More questions than answers in my mind right now, but this will be really interesting to watch play out. Stay tuned.