OSNews has an article Microsoft’s Shared Source Initiative seems like an odd mix for the company when it works openly and a clever shot across the bow of open source when it works selfishly. How can the rest of us reconcile both positions? Microsoft ex-employee Stephen Walli shares his perspectives on the Shared Source Initiative from within and without the company – quite an interesting read.
First, recognize that Shared Source isn’t one program with one license. Shared Source is an umbrella program for all source sharing programs from Microsoft. Any time Microsoft makes source code available through a program, it brands it as part of the Shared Source Initiative, the marketing machine has the message to deliver, and a new program ends up on the Microsoft Shared Source website. These licenses span the spectrum from very locked down, look-but-don’t-touch licenses to licenses approved by the OSI, and everything in between.
Most people imagine Shared Source as an avenue to open sourcing Microsoft’s key product assets and are disappointed when they see restrictive licenses and difficult eligibility requirements. It’s easy to assume that clearly Microsoft doesn’t “get it” with open source, or more deliberately is generating confusion in the marketplace. Microsoft has a breadth of software assets and artifacts. The sharing program eligibility and licensing reflects the value of the software asset to shareholders. On one end of this software spectrum are the narrow-eligibility, high-liability programs around the Windows and Office core revenue generating assets (e.g. Government Security Program, Enterprise Source License Program, etc.) There is tightly controlled access to the code, with restrictions on what people can do with it (often read or debug or limited modification without redistribution rights). The penalties for license breach are high.
If you are untested then the director of the shared source initiative at Microsoft, Jason Matusow’s blog can be found here.