Sometimes it seems really quite big news gets ‘slipped out’ almost as though the large corporation concerned really doesn’t want to let on formally. Maybe it’s because there has been so much work done to construct a public position for some time and this new story just doesn’t fit. Microsoft seems to be in the position and I have been meaning to get around to commenting on the informally released news that the Microsoft .NET Framework Library Source code is now available for developers to access.
Yup this is Microsoft, and this is a particularly important piece of news around a pretty important part of their code, and it slipped out in the blog of ScottGU who in a nice low key way describes himself; ‘Scott Guthrie lives in Seattle and builds a few products for Microsoft’. Scott writes an interesting blog on Microsoft technology, and how to use it, getting around 20 to 40 comments on each piece, then comes the blog piece saying; ‘Today I’m happy to announce….’, and the comments roar up to way over 300.
Seems I am not alone in thinking this is pretty important news and begs a series of questions. Well firstly I am not going to repeat ScottGU so I recommend you to got there to look for details on how to download, what you can and cannot do etc. What interests me is the low publicity moves made by vendors who are previously thought to be anti the Open Source model. Sun now have a neat website devoted to making their source code available then there is the Oracle equivalent.
Now what about the questions? Well is this all quite the same as Open Source in the full definition of the meaning? Doesn’t seem to be in terms of the rules controlling the ability to see and use the source code in some of these situations, but that doesn’t mean it’s no good. I applaud the pragmatic approach being taken; and the driver for it in my opinion is Web 2.0, and the explosion of originality that it is producing.
Source code has been protected in the past to allow the owner to protect their investment not just for the current version but so they can develop from this investment further versions, or upgrades. A path that will continue as there is still every need for good quality IT solutions with expanded functionality to cope with new requirements. But a good part of those upgrades is going to get driven as support for some really different stuff coming into the enterprise through the Web 2.0 door. So why not start off by encouraging this to happen?
Let the imaginative developers come up with some really off beat new stuff that will appeal to a minority of edge of enterprise users, but encourage them to connect their new stuff to your enterprise stable applications and everyone wins. All in all it’s a pretty good reason to be much more open in allowing developers more visibility of your treasured source code.