FlexWiki: Microsofts Third Open Software Project

Updated: Could problems with Microsoft's GotDotNet Workspaces be prompting Microsoft to release more code to SourceForge?

Earlier than scheduled, Microsoft Corp. has gone public with its announcement of its third open-source code contribution to SourceForge. Microsofts mystery contribution? FlexWiki.

Late Monday evening, SourceForge posted information on Microsofts FlexWiki code to its software repository.

FlexWiki is an experimental collaboration tool based on WikiWiki, which is a tool for collaborating on common Web pages.

The Redmond, Wash., software vendor was slated to unveil on Tuesday the latest piece of code that it had opted to contribute into open source under the Common Public License. Instead, Microsoft and SourceForge announced a few hours earlier than scheduled that it would be FlexWiki that Microsoft is making available under a bona fide open-source license.

According to the FlexWiki Web site, FlexWiki was originally named SharpWiki, and was created by David Ornstein. Ornstein is currently a lead program manager with Microsofts digital documents group, which is part of the Windows team.

Microsoft also hired at the end of 2003 the inventor of the Wiki concept, Ward Cunningham. Cunningham is an architect in Microsofts Prescriptive Architecture Guidance group.

According to the FlexWiki site, Microsoft has been working to transition the FlexWiki code from its own alternative to SourceForge, known as GotDotNet Workspaces, to SourceForge for the past few months.

Contributors to Microsofts source-code repository for all projects—not just FlexWiki—have logged numerous and repeated complaints about GotDotNet Workspaces performance and its versioning-control mechanism.

Microsoft has been working to release an overhauled version of the Workspaces site. On Aug. 23, Microsoft officials posted to the site a notice that the company had resolved a number of these performance and control issues.

Neither Microsoft nor SourceForge officials were willing to comment on this story by press time.

But on Tuesday morning, Jason Matusow, director of Microsofts shared-source program, was willing to share some information on Microsofts latest shared-source play.

Unlike its previous two open-source contributions (Windows Installer XML and Windows Template Library), FlexWiki is an appliction, not a development tool, Matusow pointed out. As a result, Microsoft is anticipating "learning about collaborative development at a truly different level," as a result of its FlexWiki submission, he said.

At the same time, "there are many groups inside Microsoft using FlexWiki, as its a good tool for sharing information," Matusow said.

Matusow also offered a different take on why Microsoft opted to move FlexWiki from GotDotNet Workspaces to SourceForge. "We just wanted it (FlexWiki) to be higher profile," Matusow said.

Since the start of 2004, Microsoft has released two projects into open source under the Common Public License, and has chosen SourceForge as the vehicle for making the code available.

The first two projects were Windows Installer XML and Windows Template Library. Microsoft and SourceForge reported this summer that the two Microsoft projects were among the top percentage of SourceForge downloads for 2004.

Editors Note: This story was updated to include Microsofts comments.


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