Microsoft Makes .NET Source Code Available

.Net source code

When the announcement was first made, however, some developers viewed it as a Pandora's Box because the source code would be released under a "Reference" license, which meant developers could view the code but not use or modify it. On Wednesday Guthrie revealed a small change in the licensing which addresses those concerns:

"We made a small change to the license to specifically call out that the license does not apply to users developing software for a non-Windows platform that has 'the same or substantially the same features or functionality' as the .NET Framework," he wrote. "If the software you are developing is for Windows platforms, you can look at the code, even if that software has 'the same or substantially the same features or functionality' as the .NET Framework."

Alani Kuye, president of Norwalk, Conn.-based solution provider Phantom Data Systems, says the decision is a positive one for Microsoft, open source, and the channel, but it comes with strings attached. "Open source right now is really biting into the market, and it's biting really hard," he said. "This is Microsoft's way of saying open source is taking off, but we're still here."

Kuye says he was also skeptical of Microsoft's true intentions when the October announcement was made. "The first reaction was, 'Let's wait and see.' It took them a while to change the language of the license," he said. "You ask, 'What are they up to this time?'"

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The tweak in the license language allows Microsoft to "stay in the party," as Kuye puts it -- let developers look at the code so whatever they do still works in a Microsoft environment. "The minute you look at Microsoft code, you have to understand the licensing implications, because when Microsoft says open source, it's open source with strings attached," he says. "This doesn't give you the license, but you can build it, so if they want to move in it doesn't give them any problems."

By offering up the download rights, Microsoft would have brought a gift to the open source party, but it's not a present he sees Microsoft offering anytime soon. "This was a pure business decision," he says. "They'll never release their license for free -- it's not going to happen."