Microsoft to release .Net as Shared Source

Microsoft to release .Net as Shared Source

Summary: Microsoft is making source code for the .Net Framework available to interested developers under its Shared Source license, the company announced on October 3. Developers can look, but not modify or redistribute under the license Microsoft has selected.


Microsoft is making source code for the .Net Framework available to interested developers under its Shared Source license, the company announced on October 3.

Microsoft to release .Net as Shared SourceMicrosoft will be rolling out the .Net code piecemeal, after scrubbing comments. It plans to start with the .Net Base Class Libraries, ASP.Net, Windows Forms, ADO.Net, XML (System.XML) and the Windows Presentation Foundation, blogged Microsoft Developer Division General Manager Scott Guthrie. Over time, the company also plans to make available the source code for Windows Communication Foundation, Windows Workflow Foundation and Language Integrated Query (LINQ), Guthrie said.

Microsoft is releasing the code under the Microsoft Reference License (MS-RL), one of several different Shared Source licenses the company offers. Interestingly, MS-RL is one of the licenses that Microsoft decided against submitting to the Open Standards Initiative (OSI) for consideration as a bona fide open-source license. (Microsoft submitted its Microsoft Permissive License, MS-PL, and the Microsoft Community License, MS-CL, for OSI approval in August.)

Microsoft intentionally decided on a license that doesn't allow changes to or redistribution of the source code because it doesn't want the .Net Framework to be a moving target, explained Dino Chiesa, Director of the .NET Platform.

"There's still a value in having a reliable, dependable platform," Chiesa said. "We don't want developers making mods to it."

Microsoft is positioning its move as a way to help .Net developers who need to understand the inner workings of the framework to write better apps.

"Releasing source code can be a help in debugging," agreed Greg DeMichillie, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft. "Sometimes a developer can't figure out why their app isn't but if they can step from their application into the library it becomes clear.

However, DeMichillie said, Microsoft "should have done this a long time ago. In fact, Microsoft debated this very question back in 2000, before the initial release of .NET but they thought that publishing the code, even as read-only, was too risky, presumably because of IP (intellectual property) issues. So it's nice they are getting around to this, but what would have been pretty bold seven years ago is pretty ho-hum now."

But Andrew Brust, Chief of New Technology at twentysix New York (and a Microsoft-appointed Regional Director) said Microsoft also gets another benefit from publishing the .Net source code.

"Even more significant is the apparent regime of transparency and general liberalism that is taking root in the dev div (Moonlight on Linux is another example). I think they are realizing that such an approach is a hearts/minds winner and the downside is very low. If you love people (developers, in this case), set them free. I think that's good advice, and good business."

Microsoft will allow developers to download the .NET Framework source libraries via a standalone install," allowing you to use any text editor to browse it locally," Microsoft's Guthrie explained. "We will also provide integrated debugging support of it within VS 2008," which is slated to go to manufacuring by the end of 2007.

While Microsoft isn't requiring developers to sign any non-disclosure agreements to view the .Net source code, I'm sure anyone working on an open-source project would need to think twice about looking at Microsoft's code in order to avoid potential IP conflicts.

Any developers out there interested in looking at the .Net Framework code? Why or why not?

(Sticker Nation 11. Image by oskay. CC 2.0)

Topics: Microsoft, Enterprise Software, Software, Software Development


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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  • System.Xml

    Maybe the next JRE will magically get decent xml/xslt perf like .NET after this... :-)
    Johnny Vegas
    • Naw, nothing will save JRE.

      • Are you drunk?

        Java is so much better than .NET at this point it's not even funny. Better yet, it's really open, unlike Microsoft's pretend open BS.
        • Better if you mean slower,

          harder to work with, time consuming to create anything,
        • Are you kidding?

          I can't agree with that statement. Having done both .NET and Java in my time I can categorically state that .NET is Faster, Easier to develop for, and has a much quicker time-to-market.
          If Java does not fix these deficiencies (the reverse of the .NET pros) then it will go the way of FORTRAN in the years to come...
  • It's not open

    Shred source isn't open source, so this really just caters to a very defined audience. Fine for them, but this isn't anyhting important for those interested in non-proprietary software. I wonder if M$ will ever get around to embracing open source.
    • Correct, Microsoft is a FOR PROFIT company

      What part of that escapes you?

      But this isn't about asking the community to contribute, its about allowing developers to see what is going on.
      • RedHat, Novell, SUN also are for profit companies

        So heading your reply with a non sequitur is kinda lame but may sucker in a few small fish.
        Good luck with that!

        The code that you get to see from these vendors still has the comments in it. This is a great help for developers since uncommented code is only useful if it is written so clearly that no comments are needed. So far no significant body of code meets those criteria.

        Any notion what the Chinese government thought of the code that they were allowed to review before they would agree to do any business with M$?

        They have their own OS and, so far, no major announcements have come from M$ as to opening up the huge potential market there...
        Still Lynn
        • And they don't GPL theri code either.

          Well, I bm has released some...

          As to China and MS, MS made them one sweet deal and they jumped at the opportunity.
          • Only theri GPLs theri's code. Who is theri anyway?

            Solars is GPL, Linux from RedHat and SuSE/Novell is GPL. I've never heard of theri. What do they sell?

            IBM doesn't like the GPL for most of the code that they sell/distribute, but this is the closest you've come to anything correct ; they have released some code under the GPL. Mostly Linux kernel patches.

            Rejecting Windows for government use is the sweet deal that the Chinese got from M$???? That was certainly appropriate but not much of a profit-maker, eh? Will they make up for the loss on individual units by doing large volume?

            Are you new at this or do you just play a newbie on ZD Net?
            Still Lynn
      • Still, the thre is nothing shared about it. You can ONLY take a peek, and

        then, MS reserves the right to sue you if you ever use anything you learned. Anybody with an IQ in double figures would stay clear of this.
        • Shared does not = Open

          Yes, you are correct, this is not open source and no one wants a basement dweller mucking around with their private version of .NET.
          • And, in this case, it ain't shared either. You can only look at it.

            And, even then contaminate yourself.
          • Shared means you can look at it.

            What part of that has you so confused?

            Further, what do you care? You don't use Windows so what's your beef with the fact most of the world does and this is a very good thing for developers that do?
    • Nobody

      Nobody claimed that it is open source. For those that are not stuck in NBM land, this is a big deal because developers of .Net apps will finally be able to debug right into the .Net class libraries.

      There are big advantages to this other than having the ability to change the code, you know. Not everyone lives in your tiny little world.
      • The use of the word "shared" is still very deceptive, they ain't

        sharin' nuthin. Just smoke and mirror to pretend they are somehow "open".
        • No, that is a basement dwellers deffinition.

          Say, how many "open" licenses are ther now? 50? 60?
          • No, this is like a kid letting his friend look at his ball, but not play

            with it. And, once you look at this particular ball, you can't play with any others.
    • Very good points, MS wants to appear to be open and interoperable, but

      behind the scenes, they are working to make things inoperable. This is just another dirty trick.
      • As you say, no one is forcing you to use it.

        Just like GPL crap, if ya don't like it, move along...