Microsoft OSS Web Site

Today Microsoft launched its new open source web site. Starting in 2001, we began thinking long and hard about open source from the perspective of it as a dev model, a business model, a licensing model, and a philosophical approach to software. Like anything – you look at it through your own perspective and we realized that there were things we agreed with and others that we did not.

Working with developer communities was something that we had done for a long time, and fairly well. But there was clearly so much more to learn and opportunities for us to experiment with different approaches. Looking back on it, it seems a bit odd that we chose to tackle the hardest problem first – Windows source code – rather than the edge cases with tools and resources. But, that is the benefit of hindsight talking. For 6 years we have been sharing source code, kicking off projects, experimenting with licensing models, funding projects, contributing to projects, taking contributions from others, launching tools (GDN Workspaces -painful- and then Codeplex), and establishing collaboration relationships with OSS companies. In that time, we also formed an OSS lab at Microsoft that has done some great work and continues to build bridges between OSS projects and MS dev teams.

Now, they have launched This will be the place where information about the various activities is aggregated. Other resources that have been spun-up over the years still exist:

· Port 25 – Open Source Software Lab at Microsoft

· Codeplex – Microsoft’s open source project hosting site

· Shared Source – Microsoft’s set of programs for sharing source code with customers, partners, governments, researchers, etc.

· Microsoft Open Source ISV Forum – offer for OSS ISVs through Microsoft Partner Program

I am sure the launch of this site will kick-off a whole new round of discussion about MS and open source – but that is exactly what it is supposed to be about. The conversation continues.


Comments (11)

  1. Microsoft OSS Web Site Today Microsoft launched its new open source web site. Starting in 2001, they…

  2. Sam Hiser says:

    Funniest thing I’ve ever seen…bar none.

  3. Gustavo says:

    Why took you so long??


  4. Wesley Parish says:

    First the submission of the Microsoft Community License and the Microsoft Permissive License to the Open Source Initiative for approval.

    Next thing will be to give Free/Libre and Open Source Software developers a break from these ridiculous and offensive software patent mutterings – if Microsoft is in sense serious about wishing to build bridges and mend relations with the F/LOSS communities, I expect to see a declaration that Microsoft will NEVER use its software patents against any F/LOSS developer or company under any circumstance – with the proviso that all bets are off the instant such a developer or company seeks to use software patents against Microsoft to sue it.

    Can we expect it?  If so, when?

  5. jasonmatusow says:

    Wesley –

    I assume you saw the news that we did submit the licenses to the OSI. I was one of the authors of those licenses and think this is a good move. Particularly considering the fact that the OSI is taking a much more neutral position towards the industry and that is good for everyone involved.

    As for the patent issue – the issue of property rights in software is not a ridiculous discussion. In fact, I would argue that it is one of the most important disscussions across all industries today. How many car manufacturers now employ hundreds, if not thousands, of software developers? How about banks, hospitals, government agencies, etc. etc.? I fundamentally believe that the creative act of building software results in property that has value. Given the fact that a few FLOSS projects are now generating revenues in the billions of dollars – it would seem to hold true in that arena as well. Yet the distriubtion of those dollars is anything but equitable.

    The whole point of our approach on the patent issue got so completely lost in the hyperbole in the press coverage. Litigation is the worst choice for any rights holder. Licensing is the first and best option, and one that has been practiced in the industry ever since there has been a software industry.

    The fact that Linux and Windows interop can be improved, and that business models can coexist by finding creative licensing models is a good thing. We pay out 10x what we get in for licensing. Windows is full of a mix of stuff created by MS and stuff licensed in from others. Customers don’t want to deal with all of that in individual chuncks, they expect us as a vendor to sort that all out and have that reflected in the price they pay. Same goes for any laptop, or DVD, or car, or airconditioner, or mountain bike, or, or, or…that you purchase. Just becuase FLOSS developers choose not to patent their work does not decrease the value of the patents owned by others.  

    As for our commitment to the community – we did make a pledge not to sue individual FLOSS developers. But that does not extend to people commercially benefiting from that development. This is a very sticky legal issue and we took flack for that language – I am not reopening that discussion here. The point is that we think individuals, academics, etc. should be working to move the state of the art forward, and teaching themselves, and producing apps – as they please as far as it relates to our technology (for example, our patent portfolio is available to academics for royalty-free use – check out the policy at mscom/IP – "Application to academics. For bona-fide academic institutions, Microsoft will make available appropriate royalty-free covenants under its patents. These royalty-free covenants are intended to encourage noncommercial research and educational activities.")

    We also have the OSP, for making sure that specs under that promise are available for all developers and they will never face patent enforcement from MS as long as they are implementing the covered spec.

    I guess my point is that categorical statements are hard. IP matters, and not just to MS but to all ISVs, and all companies producing IP. Whether you choose to assert that copyright is more important that patents, or trademark is important to you, or whatever – IP matters.

    We live in a very interesting time where the movement of technology and industry has far outpaced the law. Just look a the messy discussion about rights in the music industry to see a classic example of this.

    As always – thanks for the comments Wesley.


  6. Francis says:

    Have you considered placing NTFS under the OSP?

    File systems are one of the biggest stumbling blocks in trying to bridge Microsoft, open source, and other proprietary software. Windows’ nonexistent support of other systems means, it can’t be used to access the partitions of other operating systems. As a result, people have to read/write Windows partitions from within the foreign OS. This wouldn’t be a problem if NTFS weren’t so secret. Since it is, however, all non-MS implementations are based on reverse engineering. Relying on such guesswork is risky–it leads to corrupted data, frustration, and a move to closed shops (e.g. wholly Linux.)

  7. Wesley Parish says:

    Jason, in relation to software patents, I have had some experience with working out whether or not I wished to pursue a patent for a piece of hardware I was intending to develop.  I took the time to investigate the patent issue as thoroughly as I could at the time.

    Speaking of software, it if I had taken the development option, would have had some software controlling it – but separable from it, therefore not in my opinion, an inalienable part of the hardware.

    The major reason I discovered for patent protection, was very simple – if you were building a manufacturing plant to manufacture the hardware, you wanted to lock down the right to manufacture the product until you got a return on your investment.  And that doesn’t hold true for software.  The history of software development is rife with the equivalent of people starting in a garage – Microsoft is one of the more successful examples of that, Sun is another, and both Symbolics and LMI – read about them in Steven Levy’s "Hackers" – started out from the "garage" of the MIT AI Labs.  Both Unix and Linux started out from much the same point of focus.

    At the point software companies started getting successful, the problem of hardware had already been solved, and people were already getting adequate returns from their investments in hardware manufacture – after all, the Altair88 was built using Intel’s traffic-light control chips, if the scuttlebutt has the story right.  At that point as well, many of the algorithmic questions had also been solved, and only wanted the time to spread throughout the programmer population.

    At this point in time, any given individual willing to invest time and a little money can start a software business with a second-hand PC, and any number of high quality Free and Open Source Software packages freely downloadable from the Internet – they can even take advantage of Microsoft’s turning the blind eye to "software piracy" in China and get copies of aged Microsoft software from the same but this time morally questionable sources.

    The same need for protection during the very high risk phase between starting up and making adequate returns on a massive investment in plant, just isn’t there.

    Consequently I regard "software patents" as the moral equivalent of vanity publishers and diploma mills.

    Just my 0.02c worth – but I think I’ve earned the right to it.

  8. Nektar says:

    Open source has also the spirit of community involvement in software development. In this regard it would be good idea to link Microsoft Connect as your product bug database with the newly announced Open Source web site, much as you link it with Port25.

  9. jasonmatusow says:

    Nektar –

    I’ll pass along your comment to the web team that owns the site. I don’t know what they will do with it, but I can assure you that it will be sent over to them.


  10. Dating says:

    Today Microsoft launched its new open source web site . Starting in 2001, we began thinking long and hard about open source from the perspective of it as a dev model, a business model, a licensing model, and a philosophical approach to software. Like