Microsoft: Share More

By eweek  |  Posted 2001-08-06

Source code is the DNA of the e-commerce ecosystem, and access to it is essential to the survival and evolution of e-businesses.

Responding to its customers calls for this access, Microsoft is starting to crack open the lid through its so-called shared-source program. We welcome this initiative. However, the look-but-dont-touch conditions Microsoft places on commercial users fail to serve many of their needs.

Late last month, Microsoft released the 110,000 lines of source code to Windows CE 3.0 under a shared-source license. Of greater interest will be the shared-source release of code for Microsofts .Net C# compiler, run-time environment and class libraries. A beta release is expected by December.

The shared-source license (posted at is impressively simple. Essentially, when used in noncommercial ways such as teaching computer concepts or private experimentation, shared-source code is free of nearly all license limitations, including distributing changes. Those using it in production settings for real projects have almost none of these rights.

Corporate IT can read the source code but cant change it, pass it on to its customers or even run it as is.

Its reasonable that Microsoft wont support modified versions of its software and will require anyone using those modifications to pay for a license. But IT managers need to make the decisions between customization vs. standardization and support and take responsibility for them.

Microsoft is still working out how its shared-source program will work. As it does this, we suggest the company find a way to allow IT to make and deploy changes to shared-source software when and where IT deems necessary.

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