Thursday, October 23, 2003 1:10 AM bart

Microsoft Shared Source Initiative

As you may know already, I love the company of Microsoft. They're building great software and have a great vision on software (okay, although being commercial). Lots op people think Microsoft keeps all the code of the tools, systems, servers, etc as private as possible, but that's definitely wrong... Already heard about the .NET vision? It's all about "let's integrate things" using standards as XML, SOAP, ... But it's alsa another new vision on software development. Think of the open source projects on www.asp.net: the Cassini web server, ASP.NET Forums, great demo apps (portal starter kits, GotDotNet samples, ...).

For products which are not really part of '.NET' (although this is not as easy as this, since .NET is something like 'Microsoft v3.0') there's the shared source initiative as well. Did you know the source of products such as Visual Studio .NET, ASP.NET, .NET Passport, the .NET Framework and even Windows and Windows CE is shared source? You'll find everything you need to know on http://www.microsoft.com/resources/sharedsource/default.mspx. I believe in the power of shared source, it's open but not too open. Let me explain: the major problem with software is that you can easily reproduce it at a very low cost. It's nothing more than copying bits from one place to another. So, software is intellectual property, just as the technical maps of autocars are. The major difference however is that you can't just copy a car at such a low cost. Those products protect themselves. Why can't we simply do the same with software? It's exactly the same scenario. If you want you can access the 'source' of a car by reverse engineering, struggling with screws etc. But do you know things such as 'warranty void if seal is broken'? That's how far you can go as a normal user: you can use the black box but you don't have access to the internals for several reasons: you could damage things, copy things which are invented by somebody else (what would you feel if somebody is stealing your super-idea?) and so on. But the technicians, we as developers, want to see more. Well, that's possible not only with open source but with shared source as well. Compare yourself as a developer with a car mechanic who can get more access to the details of how a car works than somebody who simply drives the car (the end-user). What we don't want people to do, is to modify the system itself, but help those people to extend it. The reason for the 'non-modification' argument is this: if everybody can mess around in the engine of a system, where does compatibility of things go to? The danger to create two systems on "almost the same engine" which are completely incompatible is real.

Software companies want their products to be used as much as possible, but without touching the intellectual properties. So, the magic word is 'interface', a thing from the world of OO. Allow developers to extend your system by putting their own pieces on top of the engine. That's what the Platform SDK stands for. But if you want more to get a strong understanding of what's going on behind the scenes, shared source is the way to go. I believe developers of software have the right to protect their properties this way. Do you?

Who gets access? Not anly governments and partners but normal people can get access if they are motivated and show their knowledge and experience in the technologies associated with pieces of shared source. An example is the new program for MVPs. These people (including me, yeah!) are eligble to get access to the shared source of the products I mentioned before. More info on http://www.microsoft.com/resources/sharedsource/Licensing/mvp.mspx.

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Comments

# re: Microsoft Shared Source Initiative

Tuesday, December 09, 2003 10:09 PM by bart

One word: pathetic.