It's been a long, hot summer in the open-source world, particularly in the regions where open source and Microsoft butt up against each other. In the midst of this acrimony, Microsoft has launched the Codeplex Foundation, which is aimed at enabling "the exchange of code and understanding among software companies and open-source communities." Can the foundation cool things down?
been a long, hot summer in the open-source world, particularly in the regions
where open source and Microsoft butt up against each other, causing friction
between and within the two camps as their members battle over whether and how
they should interact.
has been all over the map with regard to open source, extending in July a
promise not to pursue patent infringement litigation against open-source
developers who implement the ECMA standards that underlie Microsoft's .NET Framework.
viewed the promise as a step in the right direction and a boon for Mono, the
open-source implementation of Microsoft .NET. However,
for many in the open-source community-particularly those who identify with the
Free Software Foundation-this promise rang hollow considering that the
guarantee excluded large swaths of .NET and that
Microsoft had, only a few months earlier, made good on previous patent
saber-rattling by suing Linux-based GPS navigation
device maker TomTom for patent infringement.
its part, the FSF has spent the summer alternately blasting individuals and
groups for and warning them against using or adopting technologies distributed
or even invented by Microsoft. For instance, the FSF this summer launched a
Website devoted to cataloging the "sins" of Windows 7 and has weighed
in on multiple occasions as to why, despite what Microsoft promises, no open-source
developer should code in Microsoft's C#.
everyone involved in open source agrees with the stance and strategy of the
FSF, however. Canonical, the company that sponsors Ubuntu Linux, has rebuffed
demands that Ubuntu remove Mono and Mono-based applications from its default
install, and many individual open-source community members-including Linux
founder Linus Torvalds-have decried the demonization of Microsoft.
yet, some within Microsoft continue to fan the flames, as evidenced most
recently by the sale of a batch of open-source-related patents with the purpose-according
to Red Hat and Linux Foundation allegations-of seeding patent trolls with the
means to undermine Linux and open-source software.
the midst of this acrimony, Microsoft has launched a new foundation aimed at
enabling "the exchange of code and understanding among software companies
and open-source communities."
new organization, called the Codeplex Foundation, hasn't completely taken shape.
But, due to its broad, technology-agnostic stance, Codeplex appears to resemble
more closely the Free Software Foundation than it does other open-source
groups tied to specific technologies. The generic approach is important-if
you're the maker of Windows, IIS and Visual Studio, your involvement in the
Linux, Apache or Eclipse foundations can only go so far.
let's face it: If your organization holds as one of its founding principles
that proprietary software is intrinsically immoral, as the FSF does, your
ability to promote open-source understanding among proprietary software
companies is awfully constrained.
is the potential for the CPF to fill the gap between open-source foundations
focused on particular platforms and groups tied to a narrow ideology. But if
the CPF is to fill this gap, the same zigzag strategy that's marked Microsoft's
dealings with open source during the past few years won't cut it.
the foundation has gotten its footing and expanded its membership, leadership
and sponsorship beyond its current, mostly Microsoft status, the foundation's
first order of business should be to establish an agreement among its members
on what constitutes appropriate use of their patent portfolios.
best, the CPF could help
forge a comprehensive software patent nonaggression agreement that'd make the
industry safe for innovation. At the least, the foundation should make
completely clear which technologies are to be considered encumbered, and by
which patents, so the industry can steer clear of or begin filling in those
Executive Editor Jason Brooks can be reached at