Microsoft Open-Sources .NET Components, Launches Foundation

NEWS ANALYSIS: Microsoft's new .NET Foundation will manage the open-sourcing of key components of .NET, the bedrock of the company's developer ecosystem.

SAN FRANCISCO—If ever there were definitive indications that Microsoft is changing its tune when it comes to open-source software, its decisions involving .NET announced at this year's Build developer conference are evidence enough.

Not only has Microsoft committed to open-source key parts of its .NET development framework, but the devices and services giant has also formed a new open-source organization, the .NET Foundation, to be the steward of the transition.

.NET has long been the foundation of Microsoft's developer ecosystem, or as S. "Soma" Somasegar, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Developer Division, said, it has been the "bedrock" of the Microsoft developer ecosystem since it was launched 12 years ago.

Moreover, is it surprising that Microsoft is open-sourcing key components of .NET, and company officials said it wasn't complicated to accomplish.

"It was very straightforward and easy to get these decisions done," Somasegar told eWEEK in an interview. Indeed, he said, the time was right.

Microsoft announced the changes at its Build 2014 developer conference here.

".NET continues to be a very widely used framework by developers building all kinds of applications," Somasegar said. "In fact, the installed base of .NET is mind-boggling. We've got about 1.8 billion active installs of .NET in the world today. That speaks volumes to the power and the popularity and benefits of the platform."

Microsoft formed the .NET Foundation to foster further innovation across the .NET ecosystem. The .NET Foundation will start with 24 .NET open-source projects under its stewardship, including the .NET Compiler Platform (previously known as "Roslyn") and the ASP.NET family of open-source projects, as well as the MimeKit and Mailkit libraries from Xamarin.

"We are going to be delivering a preview of the Roslyn compiler as a service," Somasegar said. "The most interesting thing that we're doing there is we are making both our C# compiler and our VB [Visual Basic] compiler open source. You want to be able to work with the community, you want to be able to take contributions back from the community, and you want to be able to work in the open. The other thing we are doing is adding support for .NET in Azure Mobile Services."

The new foundation will be initially staffed by Microsoft and third parties, including a representative from the Microsoft Open Technologies subsidiary and someone from the .NET organization, as well as Miguel de Icaza, CTO and co-founder of Xamarin, which is partnering with Microsoft on a related effort, Somasegar said.

"There will be a board of directors," he said. "There are going to be a couple of people from Microsoft that are going to be on the board. There will be one person from MS Open Tech that's going to be on the board; there will be one person from the .NET team that will be on the board. We are also getting Miguel de Icaza to be on the board, so we'll have at least one third-party person on the board from Day 1. And we'll have a couple of third-party projects, including efforts from Xamarin and others. Our plan is, over time, to expand the board to include more people. There will be a board that will govern the .NET Foundation. Microsoft will initially have a strong presence, but it will not be exclusively Microsoft."