Microsoft now wants its Shared Source licenses to qualify as open source

Microsoft now wants its Shared Source licenses to qualify as open source

Summary: Microsoft officials said at the O'Reilly Open Source conference this week that they are going to seek Open Source Initiative (OSI) approval for Microsoft's Shared Source licenses, but have not provided specifics. Why is Microsoft interested in doing this now?


Microsoft has decided it wants its Shared Source license to get the official "open source" label, after all.

Microsoft officials said at the O'Reilly Open Source Conference (OSCON) conference this week that they are going to seek Open Source Initiative (OSI) approval, but have not provided a specific timetable as to when the company will do so.

Last year, a programmer submitted the Microsoft Community License, one of its Shared Source licenses, to the OSI, but did so without Microsoft's blessing. Microsoft officials said at that time they were not ready or willing to seek the OSI's blessing.

Microsoft has three different Shared Source licenses: The Microsoft Permissive License (Ms-PL) Microsoft Community License (Ms-CL) and the Microsoft Reference License (Ms-RL). It's not clear whether Microsoft will seek OSI approval for one or all of these licenses.

Microsoft already has released a few of its products under OSI-backed open-source licenses. Why is Microsoft interested in going even broader and getting the official OSI OK to call anything licensed under Shared Source as "open source"?

The closest thing I could find to an answer to that question cam from Microsoft Port 25 blogger Jon Rosenberg:

"IT professionals told us they wanted both platform choices and platform interoperability. Developers told us that they wanted more open collaboration and that the language of that collaboration is code. In response, Microsoft has reached interoperability agreements with several key vendors of open source software, CodePlex is now supporting 2,000 collaborative development projects, and the features of CodePlex itself are largely driven by the votes of the community.

"Today, we reached another milestone with the decision to submit our open licenses to the OSI approval process, which, if the licenses are approved, should give the community additional confidence that the code we’re sharing is truly Open Source. I believe that the same voices that have been calling for Microsoft products to better interoperate with open source products would voice their approval should the Open Source Initiative itself open up to more of the IT industry."

What's your theory? Why do you think Microsoft is interested now in getting OSI approval for its Shared Source licenses? If you are a Microsoft customer, do you care whether or not Microsoft software is covered by an OSI-approved license?

Topics: Open Source, Microsoft


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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    Just in case you are curious:

    Because this is gotta be the funniest thing from Microsoft in ages! ]:)
    Linux User 147560
    • Typical

      Just what I would expect from a Linux guy. Typing long undecipherable characters into a computer! :)
      • Hey BUB!

        I translated! :) ]:) ;)
        Linux User 147560
        • And, I am rolling on the floor laughing as well. Also holding my sides.

          I guess he just has not sense of humor.
          • Actually he does

            see the smiley at the end of his post... I get the read that his comment was meant as a friendly jibe. Kudos to him for have the humor to see it and respond the way he did. ]:)
            Linux User 147560
    • What an image.

      I've managed to learn how to laugh standing or sitting. <br>
      Anyway, I think i detect a hint of worry in your post. It's almost like you are trying too hard to laugh. <br>
      I think they should release an open source OS, winux, and be done with it. Then they can control both the closed and open source arenas and all of you ABMers can just go home. ;)
      • You detect wrong...

        When I read this article I was so overwhelmed with the irony of what Microsoft is attempting I fell out of my chair laughing like a mad man. My boss didn't understand until he read the article and promptly joined me in the hysterical laughing fit that overcame him as well. ]:)

        Microsoft... OpenSource?! BahahahahahahahahaahHHAHAHAHAHHAAAAHAHAHAHhahahaahaha right! ]:)
        Linux User 147560
      • Bad choice of names

        Should be named "Wino".

        Then when asked if one uses Microsoft
        software, one could reply "wino".
        Ole Man
  • I think it's because of all the attention on OSI now

    With SugarCRM going to GPLv3(pretty much guaranteed OSI approval) and <a href="">CPAL getting the OSI okay</a>, they probably just want to be able to say "We make open source too!" without OSI getting on their backs.

    Will they get approval? I could see the Permissive and Community Licenses pass muster easily. The Reference license, though, may be the odd man out. I guess we'll just have to wait and see...
    Tony Agudo
    • But are the MS licenses too close to others? If so, they might be rejected

      as redundant.
      • That's actually a good question

        The OSI made some moves a while back to thin the herd of open source licenses to reduce redundancy. So it's possible that they could be rejected on redundancy grounds.

        P.S. - I've also noticed that both the Permissive and Community licenses have a "limited" version that restricts usage to Windows-only. Unless there's already an OSI-approved license that expressly restricts platform usage, that's could be another sticking point.
        Tony Agudo
        • Any Window s only clause would be a show stopper for OSI approval. See #8


          8. License Must Not Be Specific to a Product

          The rights attached to the program must not depend on the program's being part of a particular software distribution. If the program is extracted from that distribution and used or distributed within the terms of the program's license, all parties to whom the program is redistributed should have the same rights as those that are granted in conjunction with the original software distribution.
          • Bingo!

            So the limited licenses are a non-starter. That clears that up for me. And the Reference license fails on the first criterion:

            [i]1. Free Redistribution

            The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software [b]as a component of an aggregate software distribution[/b] containing programs from several different sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale. [/i]

            So in the end, Microsoft has only two licenses that stand a halfway decent chance of getting OSI approval. If they're smart, they would have submitted only those two licenses. Otherwise it might just blow up in their faces. Again, let's wait and see...
            Tony Agudo
    • Tiemann diplomacy

      I really believe the OSI has launched an effort to unify the open source licensing situation under their umbrella ans this move by Microsoft is part of that compromise.

      OSI gave in by taking an attribution license, and maybe after further discussions these licenses might go in too, perhaps with some minor amendment.
  • OSI for sale

    This provokes deep, guteral laughter.
  • LOL...

    We needed a good laugh on Friday!
    I think the real reason is an attempt to obfuscate what open source really means.
    Let me be clear: anything less than GPL2 is just PR.
    GPL3 is the best way to go!
    Linux Geek
    • BSD is Better

      Personally, I like the BSD/MIT-style licenses better.

      GPL is too wordy and bulky, making it hard for human beings to comprehend.

      At least I have trouble with it.

      If I'm open sourcing something, I want to make sure I understand the terms I am offering my code under.
  • FAP!!!

    Cookie monster share cookies?

    Not a chance!
  • embrace extend extinguish

    We're approaching phase 2, they're trying to get people to use their license, so they can have some sort of control.

    People will be lured into their license system with loads of FUD, mainly patent fears related (we got to squash this item ASAP)

    After that, we'll see some 'minor' modifications to the license.
    Of course all at MS's discretion, without notification.

    After that, people will be snookered and phase 3 can be completed.
  • This is an attempt at Newspeak!

    Microsoft wants to dilute the concept of open source so that it will eventually mean anything its marketers want. It then sessentially becomes meaningless.

    We should support the OSI?s efforts to preserve the purity of the open source concept and encourage ? if we can ? vendors to do the same by using real open source licenses like GPLv3. There are, of course, many open source licenses, but as long as they adhere to the essential principles of the OSD that?s not a problem. So far the OSI has done a good job in deciding what licenses meet those principles.

    Microsoft can submit its licenses as often as it likes, but if they don't make the grade, they aren't open source. Too bad.

    I agree with Danese Cooper, secretary and treasurer of the OSI board, when she says that the term ?open source? is being abused. This has to stop. Such abuse leads to confusion, and that only plays into the hands of the enemies of free/open source software.

    Did I say "enemy"? Of course I did.