Thursday, April 3, 2014

Why Microsoft Open Sourced .NET

20:26 derive: Troll Harder

That's the response from an IRC channel chatter after the news came out about Microsoft's .NET. It left a lot of developers in shock, some in disbelief... But mainly a lot in curiosity. Obviously something provoked Microsoft, a vehemently anti-Open source entity, to Open Source .NET, but what was it? By looking into the technical, political, and commercial implications of what this means, their reasoning becomes obvious.

The announcement for the relicensing of most of the .NET stack came on April 3rd, 2014, which is exactly 5 days before the XPocolypse, Microsoft's termination of their most widely used, widely popular desktop operating system. They need to gain market leverage again, and no legal paradigm has risen to popularity quicker during XP's reign than Open Source. A lot has changed in the decade since XP, and now Microsoft is being forced to catch up to companies like Apple and Google, who learned far sooner than Microsoft that Open Source technologies have technical and managerial advantages over closed source development.

However, the motivation isn't all an act of kindness. Microsoft's watching its Empire be chipped away by community projects that recreate Microsoft functionality. The Mono project, for instance, was a (somewhat) successful attempt at an open source .NET. With Microsoft filling this niche, the only card that Mono has to play is cross-compatibility, a technical feat not far off from possibility with the .NET source code released today.

Let's follow this tangent a little bit more. This isn't a one-off thing. Open source code is part of the new .NET foundation goals. What could the future hold for other community projects similar to Mono, like, say, MingW, if the source for other development tools gets released?

Is it a positive thing that Microsoft is moving into Open Source? Absolutely. But do not confuse business strategy with kindness, for the motives for the move are clouded by the drive for market dominance in a post-XP era.

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