While many people see Microsoft as the “enemy” of open source, Microsoft has in fact been busy learning from open source, and has released source code for more than eighty Microsoft projects under a “shared source” license. In addition, there are about six hundred programs (notably dotNetNuke) released by independent developers under Microsoft shared source licenses. As in the open source world, many of these projects have ended up with small license variations, creating unnecessary complexity. Today, at the O’Reilly European Open Source Convention, Jason Matusow of Microsoft announced a plan to simplify their plethora of shared source licenses, reducing the count to three (or, more accurately, five) variations: the permissive license, the community license, and the reference license. The permissive license is most like the BSD license; the community license is most like the Mozilla license; and the reference license is a “look but don’t touch” license. The permissive and community licenses have variations that limit source distribution to the Windows platform.
Based on a quick read, the non-limited versions of these licenses look like they might well be able to meet with OSI approval as open source licenses. I’d urge Microsoft to go ahead and to go ahead and submit them to License-Discuss for OSI Approval, and become a full-fledged member of the open source community. They are clearly getting closer and closer to a tipping point. Let’s encourage them to go all the way! Be nice.