Microsoft Flagged for Open-Source Foul

Microsoft gets flagged for what amounts to a defensive holding penalty against open source, despite attempts by the company to be more supportive of open-source initiatives. How serious is Microsoft about open source?

Well, Gavin Clark over at The Register throws a yellow flag at Microsoft for being unfriendly to open source on the company's CodePlex community development site.

Said Clark:

""Microsoft is posting code to its much-trumpeted CodePlex open-source projects site using licenses and conditions that go against the principles of open source.""

Moreover, "The company has been posting projects under Microsoft licenses that stop you from running CodePlex projects on non-Windows platforms or restrict access to code," he said.

Miguel de Icaza, founder of the open-source Mono project and a vice president of developer platform at Novell, initially complained about the restrictive licensing of one of Microsoft's frameworks that had been posted to CodePlex. In an Oct. 2 blog post, de Icaza said: "A couple of weeks ago I suggested that developers interested in having their .NET software run in other platforms should avoid Microsoft's Managed Extensibility Framework (MEF) as it was not an open-source library."

Microsoft initially posted the project on CodePlex under its Microsoft Limited Permissive License (MS-LPL), but suggestions from de Icaza and others prompted Microsoft to change the licensing of MEF to one recognized by the Open Source Initiative (OSI). So Microsoft changed MEF's licensing to one of its OSI-recognized licenses: Microsoft Public License (MS-PL).

"Representing .NET's loyal competitor, I did not think that we stood a chance of getting Microsoft to change the license, but I was pleasantly surprised," de Icaza said.

Meanwhile, in a blog post, Glenn Block, a program manager for MEF at Microsoft, discusses in detail Microsoft's decision and how the company went about responding to the community feedback. In short, he said, "It means you can grab MEF's source and use it on whichever platform you like!"

However, The Register's Clark said:

""A trawl of CodePlex, though, revealed other Microsoft code also available under restrictive licenses not friendly to open source. ASP.NET is there under the Microsoft Source License, which limits code to qualified Microsoft customers, partners, and governments and requires you sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).""

A recent eWEEK interview with Sam Ramji, senior director of platform strategy at Microsoft, indicates the company is intent on playing well with the open-source community. And they're making moves like supporting jQuery. But it seems we just can't get away from the question of how serious the company is. What are your thoughts?