Will Stallman C# warning fall flat?

Will Stallman C# warning fall flat?

Summary: Stallman's fear is that Microsoft will use its software patents to force open source C# implementations, and applications, underground. Any move toward bringing C#, which Microsoft developed and Mono, which Microsoft supports, into the center of the Linux community must therefore be resisted.


Richard Stallman (right) of the Free Software Foundation sees C# and Mono as a Microsoft conspiracy and is warning developers away from it.

Stallman's fear is that Microsoft will use its software patents to force open source C# implementations, and applications, underground.

Any move toward bringing C#, which Microsoft developed and Mono, which Microsoft supports, into the center of the Linux community must therefore be resisted.

The problem is not in the C# implementations, but rather in Tomboy and other applications written in C#. If we lose the use of C#, we will lose them too. That doesn't make them unethical, but it means that writing them and using them is taking a gratuitous risk.

Stallman's problem is that this horse has left the barn. C# is both an ISO and Ecma standard. The fact it's part of a Microsoft-developed Common Language Infrastructure is irrelevant at this point.

Microsoft can end this controversy with a press release, and a simple legal document, promising not to enforce software patent rights on the software. But how likely is that? [poll=106]

Topics: Software Development, Microsoft

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  • Is this any different than Java?

    There are positive reasons to have someone hold the patent, mainly, that there is only one captain of the ship. I support open source, but the hitorical problem with it and UNIX has been forking. Some propeller head messes with the code and makes the system incompatible. By holding one stream closed, it sets the standards that the rest must meet, with the result being better compatibility for everyone.

    <FLAME FODDER> What is the goal of the free software foundation? Is it free software or to have everyone going in so many directions that nobody moves forward? I propose that the FSF take control of the streams to get everyone moving in one direction. (seriously, how many versions of Linux do we need?) </FLAME FODDER>
    • Its quite different from Java.

      Java is supported on Linux by Sun directly. If you weren't a FOSS purist then theres has never been a problem with Java on Linux. Now that Java is FOSS there isn't a problem for the purist either. There are no legal questions about Java on Linux.

      MS does not support .Net on Linux. .Net on Linux is achieved through a project at Novell called Mono. There are legal questions about whether Mono can be uses on anything besides Novell distros.

      Now what this has to do with the rest of your rant on multiple versions of Linux (which you probably mean multiple distros) I don't know. But if you force everyone into using one distro then its not really free now is it? That's an important issue especially now as some distros seek to put more and more Mono into their offerings and many people don't like this. Because of the multiple distros people have the choice to switch and use something else. The lack of understanding of the concept of choice in a capitalist society by so many people is seriously frightening.
      • RE: Will Stallman C# warning fall flat?

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  • Tired of political agendas

    It's pretty clear Stallman has an agenda of keeping anything Microsoft-influenced out of Linux. Fine.

    If he wants Linux to be a marginal desktop operating system forever, that's exactly the attitude to accomplish it.

    • Either a good act...

      ...or you're pretty blind. Ok...let your competitor play a major role in the success of your product. You'll get a LOOOOONG way.
      • Apple has

        MS is one of the largest software providers for Apple, and really stuck with them through the lean, 'Apple is dying every 5 minutes' years.

        Most of the large software companies play major roles on the others platforms, as much as they compete. Be it iTunes or Office.

        I think MS has more to gain by spreading C# then by holding it back. So there is about as much of a chance of MS pulling Mono as Apple pulling iTunes off Windows.
        It just wouldn't make sense.
        • Then why don't they spread it?

          If MS were to release a first class .Net offering for other platforms as Sun does with Java with clear licensing I'd be open to its usage. MS does not however distribute .Net on other platforms and Mono is a second class attempt at mimicking it.

          MS has nothing to pull because they have not put anything out there. What they could do though is use Mono in their continued patent FUD.

          You give a poor example. MS could die and Apple would live on...vice versa. They do not depend on each other nor bolster the sales of each other. Why do you think companies that have products that compete with MS products push those products on other platforms as well. Oracle would be silly to only sell on Windows where MS would control the playing field where they compete with SQL server and so on. Why would the Linux community want to make the same mistake and build an MS led technology into its offerings.

          Using Mono is fine....making Linux dependent on it is not.
        • Did they "really stuck with them"?

          MS behaviour towards Apple during the lean times was part of the
          antitrust case against them. Despite MS's Apple division being
          extremely successful they threatened to withdraw these products over
          Apple support for Netscape and the availability of Quicktime on

          Lets not revise history, nor ignore it's lessons.

          I'm bewildered by support for C# for open source projects outside
          Novell. Whilst it took far too long Java is completely open sourced and
          controlled by the Java Community Process. Anyone looking to
          managed code environments would be silly not to choose Java with it's
          excellent server (Java EE) and client (Java SE + SWT) platforms.
          Richard Flude
          • So, Apple's lean times were MS's fault somehow Richard?

            You make no sense. Apple had over a decade on MS. They refused to build anything other than outlandishly priced computers that only the privileged wealthy could even approach affording. I mean who thought a 5000.00 home computer would fly in the 1980s? <br>
            From 1991 to 1995 MS built a dynasty on foresight. How can MS help the Fact that SUN(who had everything handed to them, thanks U.S. taxpayers), or APPLE or IBM or any other IT giant of the 80s was not smart enough to target the larger market? Huh? I don't get that part, why is that Microsoft's fault? They had a great business plan, it had unprecedented success and they had every right to do business, as business should be done. <br>
            Many people liken Capitalism to some kind of alter to greed, and maybe it is for some, but so is it for some in dictatorships and the aristocrats in a socialist economy, so this God forsaken subjective BS just needs to stop.
            It was good business for Microsoft to do exactly what you said. That is what business is about. It's about protecting your interests and your jobs. Jobs are extremely important to a company and to the economy. <br>
            I really don't think they would have let Apple sink anyway, it was just typical business manuveuring that takes place in most every business in the world. In fact as far as I can recall, the U.S. companies of old were more about Jobs and country than greed. Hmmm, I wonder if that is just nostalgia painting the past in a better light than it was, or was it the businesses outside the U.S. that become major players as the economy became a global one for everyone more and more, more greedy and driven than U.S. companies. Well, that was really silly but if I thought that were true and held a grudge because of it, it might make as much sense as those that hold one against MS now. Unpresedented and greedy predatory monopoly are two very different things. History shows the former is the much larger part of that pie. <br>
            Please spare me the netscape story, or the other one.....seems there are two, which are magnified and an illusion is attempted to be created that it was everyone, even those IT Titans I mentioned who roamed the IT landscape in the 80s with massive headstarts and resources on MS. Yes, someone the guile of wiley ol' Bill Gates found a way to crush each and every one of those companies on it's way to where it is now. Nobody knows for sure what he did, but we know it did happen and it was evil. <br>
            As for the few examples that are repeated on here ad nauseum, there is a great deal of evidence that Ms had Nothing to do with the demise of either. And history shows that that to be the most likely case.
            Everything else is simply doing business. It's a very competitive world out there. Nobody claimed rainbow filled days and puppy dogs that never age.
          • Read what I said

            "So, Apple's lean times were MS's fault somehow Richard?"

            I didn't say that. Apple woes were Apple's doing. But your claim that
            MS "stuck by" Apple is factually incorrect.

            "It was good business for Microsoft to do exactly what you said."

            Whilst it might have been "good business" it was illegal.

            "I really don't think they would have let Apple sink anyway..."

            Based on what?

            "Please spare me the netscape story, or the other one..."

            Ignore what doesn't suit?

            "As for the few examples that are repeated on here ad nauseum, there
            is a great deal of evidence that Ms had Nothing to do with the demise
            of either."

            What evidence. A US court statement of facts says it did. What do you

            This is not an attack on capitalism or free markets. It recognises that
            free markets are however only an intellectual construct. The real world
            deals with acknowledged market failures.

            Believing something to be different doesn't make it so.
            Richard Flude
          • I did Richard. You are still a very one sided thinker.

            It was illegal for Steve Jobs to allow backdating of stock option dates. no? <br>

            BeOS was stopped from being part of OS X, which was ok, but then Jobs refused BeOS critical architectural information about it's G3 line of computers, making BeOS unable to run on the newer machines. Illegal? Probably. BeOS was broke when it reached the x86 architecture and there is no guilt found against MS that ever proved in any way they stopped them from competing. <br>
            DR-DOS - Again, read the wikipedia entry for a quick overview. What was DR-DOS ended up being Open source and breaking the GPL for which it had to make things right.
            In the meantime, there is a time when MS put in code...in test code....that would block apps from installing on anything but the MS-DOS OS , I believe that is correct. That never, ever, never went into production and DR-DOS was not stopped from competing. They were very well positioned in fact when Novell came swooping in and bought them out and changed everything about DR-DOS. That was the end of it's challenge against MS, not anything that MS did, ever. That is historically factual information. Nobody knows what would have happened had Novell not stepped in and change the game, taking DR-DOS effectively out of competition with MS-DOS. They tried to turn it into a product for netware, or something like that..go read it and you'll know. I know you want MS to be the bad guy, but they clearly were not. DR-DOS never recovered from what Novell did to it......except end up open source and NON COMPLIANT. Basically DR-DOS would have been what IBM used, but the company owner thought he could blow off IBM and meet at his own time, being a maverick and all. Sorry Charlie, you snooze, you lose. <br>

            What I find very odd is that a company with far fewer resources throughout the 80s, with only core components that could only be licensed to build a new OS and nothing else, than a dozen large government backed (either directly or indirectly) Mega companies, MS was able to change the IT world in FOUR years and capture a market that apparently SUN, APPLE, IBM and many others had never conceived of....or were they aiming for it, but wanted it to take 25 to 30 years for some honest and good hearted reason? <br>
            No matter what the judge, who spoke to the press showing clear prejudice against Microsoft, which in any other case in the land would have forced that judge to recuse himself from the case, did it was clear that it was a political matter. If you read the early stages of the case, initially the DoJ/Courts said there was no grounds on which to proceed. Perhaps I want to believe the jurisprudence of that court, rather than that of one where the judge should have been recused due to worst kind of behavior a federal judge could possibly show in a civil case....bias. <br>
            You go ahead and stick with what you got, cause it's all you have and you've reveled in it for a long long time, but secretly knowing it had big huge asterisk beside that in reality nullifies it for all intents and purposes. They did not get split up and the punishment was nothing more than pandering to those very companies who couldn't figure out how to make a user friendly, low cost computer that a majority of people in the industrialized world could afford. Perhaps SUN or IBM or APPLE felt their products were too good to be used by mere "regular everyday people" and should only be enjoyed by aristocrats, scientists and educators. <br>
            Is "Opportunist" a good word for Gates in your mind? I truely believe that you are one of many people who truely cannot stand winners in the world. You are always for the underdog, of course MS was the underdog at one point and put IBM in it's place and shut down it's PC business for the most part. I'm not sure why a person like you would not have been happy that PCs with open architecture was the result of that. You don't strike me as one who backed microchannel or Appletalk and all other proprietary hardware and software protocols employed by the "big guns" of that era. <br>
            So basically because a man and his company were simply smarter than the rest of all IT mindshare put together, they now must suffer your wrath eh? <br>
            Are you that way in sports? I'm guessing if you follow sports at all, you tend to hate any team that builds a dynasty, no matter how talented the team is, you simply seem them as being "opportunists" and "underhanded" because they are talented and smart enough to beat everyone else <br>
            Netscape. Read wikipedia entry. There is no guilt found on Microsoft. After Netscape crushed Mosaic, and came up with a little reptilian mascot to represent how they were "MO saic K"illa"s, they got a little surprise of their own. A legal browser with every copy of windows. Remember, that very court you honor and worship to this day, also ordered that MS put it's browser BACK in, after they removed it at the court's request. So IE preinstalled on Windows was perfectly legal. According to everything I read and experienced, Netscape dropped their browser product, dropped supporting any new HTML versions and tried to build some cockamamie product that did nothing.
            MS did settle with Netscape, but companies routinely do it because it's cheaper than court, not because they are guilty. If we are going to start saying any settlement means guilt, then open source and Apple and IBM and SUN and Google are all criminal entities to the MAX. <br>
            Sure, once they got inside the company and could read email at will they made a case. You would find that in any company. And email, as well as talkback posts, have a phenomenon where the reader assumes the author's tone and seriousness, withoiut anything to tell the reader that is such. <br>
            There is enough guilt to go around the entire IT industry when it comes to playing by the rules, but we just simply seem to ignore when Google or IBM is abusing small companies in other countries, basically crushing them with an army of lawyers and money. Why is that so here on zdnet? Google, Apple and Sun, to give a few examples, have committed acts of cutting off air supply of competitors, time and again, but that never is discussed here. Everyone that is not MS, gets a free pass. <br>
            You can claim otherwise, but it boils down to one thing. Jealousy, envy and contempt for those who do not believe and think exactly like you. These are sins in the Lord's eyes and both cause the fighting the world has seen since the beginning of life on Earth, or around 15,000 to 25,000 years ago.
      • RE: Will Stallman C# warning fall flat?

        The fact its part of a Microsoft-developed Common Language Infrastructure is irrelevant at this point.<a href="http://ipadbagblog.com/"><font color="LightGrey"> k</font></a>
  • RE: Will Stallman C# warning fall flat?

    No. He is concerned that Microsoft will hold to its threat that Linux violates its patents. Very valid point of view.
  • RE: Will Stallman C# warning fall flat?

    "C# is both an ISO and Ecma standard."

    Oh, right, did you see what microsoft did with ISO about the ooxml thing? ISO became "I Sold Out". Their credibility is none now. ECMA? Sam Varguese asked them about "the elusive, royalty-free patent licence for Mono" (http://www.itwire.com/content/view/25215/1090/) and as far I know, he's still waiting for an answer. The only person who seems that saw this licence is miguel de icaza, maybe after a lot of beers or a huge amount on his account on the bank.

    Is that a proof that we shouldn't trust them or not? Come on people, don't be naive. History tell us where this situation is going. Embrace, extend, exterminate is still a valid mantra on Redmond.
  • Please get your facts right

    This article is little more than flamebait as it stands now. I don't believe it was your intention, but this topic deserves some more accuracy.

    The issue is <b>not C#</b>. C# has been standardized through Ecma and as part of that standards process Microsoft and partners had to declare that any patents they may hold on the technology behind C#, Common Language Runtime(CLR) and Common Type System(CTS) be made available to any implementor on a fair an <i>non-discriminatory</i> base.

    Microsofts deal with Novell has basically set the standard: Free. As Novell gets the patent licenses for free, any implementor of C#, CLR and/or CTS would be discriminated against if they had to pay.

    C# (the language) is in this respect much more open than Java. Java has open source <i>implementations</i>, but the all-important specification is still fully under Suns (and soon Oracles) control. As benevolent dictators Sun has for many years followed a semi-open path by relinquishing some control to the Java Community Process (JCP). But Sun was *always* at the end of the table and always reserve their right to veto or just forge ahead without the JCP. Like they did with JavaFX.

    C# cannot be changed by Microsoft alone anymore. They have to get amendments through the same Ecma/ISO channel. Of course, MS has a big saying in these matters, but even so, factually, this process <b>protects against any patent litigation</b> from Microsoft with respect to C#, CLR and CTS implementations.

    Now, Mono is not just C#. The Mono project also has clean-room implementations of large/most parts of the .NET Framework. Some of this Framework is also covered by the standards process patent protection, while other parts such as <i>Windows Forms</i> and ASP.NET are not.

    The FUD about the potential Microsoft patent litigation actually centers around these parts. The fear is that even while Mono does a clean room implementation that may still violate some patent within their implementation.

    Microsoft certainly holds many patents, and some code you write may indeed violate a Microsoft patent (where valid) or someone elses patents. What is unclear is how <b>Mono code somehow is more prone to such infringement</b> than other code, say Java Runtime implementations.

    You (nor Microsoft) can not patent an API. Only <i>implementations</i> can be patented in some jurisdictions (you can only patent how a machine *work*, not what it *does*).

    The .NET API does not mandate a specific implementation. Yes, Mono code may violate some patents, Microsoft, IBM, Sun, Apple, Rambus etc. So may any other code. To suggest that Mono code is more likely to infringe is disingenious. Simply FUD.

    Indeed, Microsoft has covered Moonlight by their Novell covenant. Moonlight (part of the Mono project) is guaranteed free from Microsoft litigation. And Microsoft has gone beyond that and offered users of Moonlight free access to Microsoft licensed (not owned by Microsoft) codecs. They could do that because anyone who downloads the codec from Microsoft are covered by Microsofts license with the IP owners.

    So, please. This is not about C#. It is just a programming language, and it is <i>guaranteed</i> free from MS litigation, per the terms agreed to by Microsoft as a prerequisite to standardize C#.

    Some believe that there is an issue with Monos reimplementation of the .NET Framework. However, it is hard to see how Mono code should be any more at risk than anything else.
    • Whilst I mainly agree with you...

      Whilst I mainly agree with you, it would cost Microsoft nothing to clarify this matter properly themselves. They could and should do this immediately, becuase as long as the situation has any ambiguity, this stuff will continue to be thrown at them.

      Furthermore, they should put more of .Net through the standardisation process (in particular, everything related to Silverlight), and similarly explicitly clarify the patent situation around that.
    • Except for one thing...

      Microsoft can indeed change or add extensions anything to do with C# as they choose. If people were bound by standards then you wouldn't get non-standard versions of anything. Clearly that isn't so.

      And, if they choose to withhold, charge for, or delay "release" of their extensions they are free to. It's merely a matter of leveraging their market position.

      That's been the single biggest ball and chain for Java. What would Sun do? Remember, Java is a "standard" too. However, now that's it been OSS'd a lot of those concerns are bygones now.

      C# has yet to cross that bridge, and perhaps never will. Who knows.
      • Java has NOT been OSS'ed. Please catch up!

        The OpenJDK, JRE has been open sourced. Java (the <b>language specification</b> and the <b>virtual machine (byte code) specification</b>) is still <b>exclusively</b> the property of Sun.

        Java is NOT a standard, it has NOT been accepted by any standards body, nor has it been submitted to any standard body. The Java specification has been driven (rather stalled - but that's another story) by the Java Cuommunity Process (JCP). But this was always with the proprieator Sun as the benevolent dictator at the end of the table. JCP is NOT a standards body.

        C# is an Ecma standard.

        I know it is confusing, but please catch up, will you? I explained this in the post you replied to.
        • As you said in your other post...

          Its not about C# so why do you keep comparing it to Java? Who really cares about C# as there are better [b]languages[/b] out there anyway.

          The issue is .Net/Mono. In the case of the JVM Sun distributes a version for Linux with clear licensing. Now the purists had a problem with it being closed and so forth but this isn't the same problem as .Net/Mono. You could use Java with no threat of being sued CLEARLY. You MIGHT be able to use Mono with no threat of being sued but neither MS nor Novell will come out and say that about any distro besides Novell distros. Whether they have a case or not it sure does give more teeth to their patent FUD which is the reason Novell signed a deal with MS in the first place.

          To add to it the picture becomes very muddy once you ask the Mono crowd to explain what is gained by Mono in the Linux community. They claim "best of breed" apps which could be true but for the most part the user base doesn't see it that way. They claim C# as a great language but for the use cases its not better than some of the other languages with much more syntactical sugar. They make cross platform claims but its nowhere near as cross platform as Java. They claim it will allow for Windows apps to run natively on Linux but there aren't many .Net Windows apps to begin with. They claim developers will come flocking in but I don't see it. For instance Mono has been ported to Android. I don't know if its not usable or what but no one seems to be on that bandwagon. More people want to see native code than anything. The reasons make you question if theres another agenda.
          • "More people want to see native code than anything"

            Can you please qualify that statement, because I believe it is flat wrong. You name one platform, claim anecdotally that it has no traction there and that says what? Nobody in the "real" world uses C# or finds it a great language? <br>
            What languages do you find preferable to C# btw. There is a high profile open source person that blogs quite fondly of c# as one of a few perfect languages. That means little as well, but if we are just going to make claims based on opinions and what our circle of peers are doing, then it's perfectly valid. <br>
            Who is it you believe has "another" agenda, you aren't clear on that? The mono crowd or Microsoft? <br>
            I guess like anything in life, if you feel you are breaking any kind of licensing, copyright or patent, then do the right thing and don't do it. How more simple can it be. <br>
            I personally think the worst possible move Microsoft could make is to show any support and later come swooping in with legal claims. It would make things worse for microsoft and gain them nothing.