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Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly

Microsoft to Submit Shared Source Licenses to OSI

In his keynote at OSCON, Microsoft General Manager of Platform Strategy Bill Hilf announced that Microsoft is submitting its shared source licenses to the Open Source Initiative. This is a huge, long-awaited move. It will be earthshaking for both Microsoft and for the open source community if the licenses are in fact certified as open source licenses. Microsoft has been releasing a lot of software as shared source (nearly 650 projects, according to Bill). If this is suddenly certified as true open source software, it will be a lot harder to draw a bright line between Microsoft and the open source community.

Bill also announced that Microsoft has created a new top level link at, to bring together in one place all Microsoft's open source efforts. Bill sees this as the culmination of a long process of making open source a legitimate part of Microsoft's strategy. Open source has survived Microsoft's process of "software darwinism" and is becoming an ever more important part of its thinking.

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Comments: 55

Denis Gobo   [07.26.07 10:57 AM]


that link to is incorrect it should be

Jonathan   [07.26.07 11:21 AM]

You can find most of the software Microsoft has released under these licenses on their hosting site at

JD   [07.26.07 11:32 AM]

This open source initiative might be a hint of the very long road for Microsoft towards true free software with a GPL license, and not because they want to but because market forces dictate it for their corporate survival.

Michael R. Bernstein   [07.26.07 01:34 PM]

Unless the Shared Source licenses have changed significantly since I last looked at them (or Microsoft is willing to change them significantly in response to feedback) I don't see how they could pass OSD muster, especially with the gratuitous "thou shalt not use the GPL" conditions.

Dalibor Topic   [07.26.07 02:05 PM]

What is 'software darwinism' supposed to be?

It's trivial to draw a bright line between Microsoft and the open source community: Microsoft are the ones who use patents as a weapon against open source projects.

WhenWillYouLearn   [07.26.07 03:52 PM]

Microsoft applies the phrase 'shared source' to *multiple* licenses, some of which would be considered 'open source' by the OSI and (it appears to me from a cursory glance) free software by the FSF, and other licenses which are plainly proprietary licenses.

The particular license they submitted (MS-CPL) will almost certainly be certified 'open source' by OSI. Microsoft will then try to imply the fallacious equivocation 'shared source'=='open source'. They will use the publicity to mislead vendors with regard to their 'look-but-no-touch' licenses: "It's shared source! It's just like that open-source stuff that everyone is talking about."

There is no advantage to the MS 'open source' licenses over existing licenses; there is no reason to use them. This is merely a well designed propaganda campaign to build the 'shared source' brand and paint MS as an 'open source' company.

Same old tricks. (Step 1: Embrace)

Roy Schestowitz   [07.26.07 03:54 PM]

I find that appalling. Together with badgeware (news here: ), "Open Source" has officially jumped the shark and lost its meaning. It's back to "Free software".

A shame really...

anonymous coward   [07.26.07 04:09 PM]

"..if the licenses are in fact certified as open source licenses."

They will not be!

ricegf   [07.26.07 04:50 PM]

The obvious solution is for the free blogosphere to consistently refer to Microsoft's licenses as "non-free shared source", to ensure that the entire phrase is evoked when Microsoft attempts to tout "shared source".

Call it the anti-FUD phrase. :-)

Michael R. Bernstein   [07.26.07 05:48 PM]

WhenWillYouLearn: I don't think there is an MS-CPL license. I've found the following licenses:

MS-PL - This is essentially a non-copyleft permissive license, however it is incompatible with all other licenses due to the following clause: "(D) If you distribute any portion of the software in source code form, you may do so only under this license [...]". I believe that this not only makes the license incompatible with the GPL, but even with other permissive licenses like BSD, not to mention the other MS licenses.

MS-CL - This is a weak-copyleft file-based license, but shares the same incompatibilities as MS-PL.

The 'thou shalt have no other license before me' restriction was obviously intended to be incompatible with the GPL, but ends up being incompatible with everything else as well. It takes special effort to be incompatible with the BSD license.

I suppose if Microsoft were to remove the word 'only' it would resolve the gratuitous incompatibility, but they'd still be duplicative of other existing licenses. The upshot is that these are basically vanity licenses that as far as I can tell offer nothing new to the world of Open Source licensing.

We can ignore the MS-RL, which is a 'look but don't touch' license, and the 'limited' versions of the licenses (MS-LPL and MS-LCL) that restrict use of the software to running under windows, as being obviously not OSD compliant.

Tim O'Reilly   [07.26.07 08:39 PM]

The comments here seem to miss why this is significant. By submitting their licenses to the OSI, Microsoft is taking a step towards engaging in a dialogue that will end up making their licenses compliant.

They have resisted submitting their licenses for years, for fear they would be rejected. The fact that they are doing so now means that they are willing to either be rejected, or to change the licenses in order to be accepted.

Josh Nursing   [07.26.07 09:13 PM]


Or it could be that there's more marketing power behind the term 'Open Source' today.

Thomas Lord   [07.26.07 10:24 PM]

To state the obvious:

a) probably the strategic aim here from MSFT is, in fact, to have the dialog and hopefully end with approval.

b) probably the MSFT hedge here is that if a deal can't be reached, maybe they can come up with cause for anti-trust action.


Christopher S. Charabaruk   [07.26.07 11:11 PM]

I'd have to side with Tim. Yes, "open source" has marketing power. But it's not something where you can just slap a sticker to your sign and pull in people. It's unique in that to be believed in the open source world you must be provably so. And a company such as Microsoft would be under more scrutiny than most, if they start stickering themselves like this.

Personally, I'm sickened by all the zealots who won't accept a Microsoft that sides with open source for real (whatever the reason behind it may be). It smacks of the same attitude that Microsoft once had towards open source, just in the opposite direction. Rather than bully them when they're trying to take corrective action and be a positive member of the open source world, we should encourage them and guide them along the path.

Thomas: I think the goal here is to become a supporting member of the community before the business model for software producers becomes unpalatable and brings the company to a crashing halt. Look for my comment on /. in the article about this; the deal with Novell works into it as well.

Wesley Parish   [07.27.07 01:35 AM]

Well, I'll welcome Microsoft with open arms into the Free and Open Source communities - provided of course they leave behind their obnoxious policies.

It's all about air supply, of course. They've jammed their feet so tightly on one spot that it's started to cut off their air supply; Vista's long betion was just a foretaste of the pleasures to come; and the unexpectedly difficult struggle to get MS OO XML respect proves that the Microsoft name is now proving toxic in some quarters.

But all in all, I'll be pleased not to have to worry about Microsoft trying to stuff us F/LOSS users and developers into an envelope to /dev/null

Now for specifics - I've asked Microsoft repeatedly for appropriately sanitized source trees of MS Win9x; MS NT 3-4; MS Office 9x; MS Visual C/C++/Basic 4 or 5 ... I won't believe that Microsoft is fully committed to the Free and Open Source communities until I hold the certified source tree CDs in my hand. (I have to maintain those MS Operating Systems and Office Suites for friends and relatives - it would be nice to be able to do that without breaking any laws, and with the full source so I can fix and sterilize - and communicate my fixes with others. ;)

RichB   [07.27.07 02:11 AM]

It would be a surprise if the MS-PL license was not certified - most people consider it a fully open source license.

For example, both the Mono project and Mozilla want to integrate IronPython and IronRuby. Mozilla via the new IronMonkey project. They are only considering this because of the effective open source status of MS-PL.

Fluke   [07.27.07 03:27 AM]

Tim seems to be missing why this is far from significant. This is all part of a deceptive ploy of being a wolf in sheep's skin. The game is if on the surface it looks and sounds like a sheep then it must be a sheep. Consider the following:

Sheep-skin: Bill Hilf claims that MS is playing ball with the OSI.

Actual Wolf: Microsoft's new "opensource" website already claims MS-CL SharePoint Learning Kit project as being Open Source. Microsoft makes it clear that they can at any time do an end run around OSI such that Microsoft and *NOT* OSI's Russell Nelson gets to say when they can start calling MS-CL covered works as open source.

Sheep-skin: Codeplex not only looks and feels like SourceForge but claims to have "open" projects just like SF too! One of the poster child projects of Codeplex was PowerToys for Visual Studio which they claimed was clearly "open" because of the terms of the Shared Source License.

Actual Wolf: Modifying PowerToys for Visual Studio *REQUIRES* getting (and agreeing to the terms of) Visual Studio SDK which puts limits on the degree to which the plug-ins can be modified and redistributed. OSI will approve MS-SS by itself and not take into consideration the other terms that are inherited to be able to use the MS-SS covered projects. Microsoft will then leverage that to claim that Codeplex projects follow the spirit of the Open Source Definition when in reality the SDK terms that developers *MUST* agree to to recompile the project is far from being OSD compliant.

What I find even more surprising is that Tim would claim that Microsoft somehow *MUST* honor the OSI if the MS-SS license is rejected. That is like claiming that Sun must honor the EMCA in regards to Java since they had at one point submitted it as being a possible EMCA standard. Just like Sun, Microsoft can choose to withdraw rather than continue forward towards reaching acceptance. And even if it does reach the point of being accepted, OSI is only looking at MS-SS as if it is being applied in a vacuum. The fact that the full Codeplex eco-system violates key features that free software developers hold dear will still not be addressed. In fact, leveraging OSI's approval will give MS less incentive to fix the full scope of terms a Codeplex developer has to follow.

Any claim that Codeplex projects are open source after any MS-SS license is found to follow the Open Source Definition is like claiming that a meal is the work of a five star chef when someone has put their pee on all over it. The fact that a license can by itself fit the OSD is meaningless in term of the big picture.

Dalibor Topic   [07.27.07 04:38 AM]

To me, "taking a step towards engaging in a dialogue" sounds like something Tony Snow would say about the Iranian government. :)

Tim, could you explain in comprehensible words why this is particularly significant, or even news, when Mr. Hilf himself wrote to the OSI list a couple of weeks ago, actually "engaging in a dialogue", to tell them they'd consider submitting their licenses.

They still haven't submitted any license to the OSI list so far for the past couple of weeks, so why is there all the cheerleading all of a sudden?

Did Mr. Hilf threaten to pull out of it, unless he saw some 'public support' for the 'earthshaking' move, that has been largely ignored by the open source community when it (codeplex, shared source) actually happened years ago?

Tim O'Reilly   [07.27.07 08:46 AM]

Ultimately, I believe this is significant because I believe that Microsoft realizes that they are on the losing side of history. Year by year, they have come closer to recognizing that the old models are dead, and that new ones need to be explored.

This doesn't mean that all their software will be open source. But I don't see people abusing Chris DiBona about Google's open source program because all of Google's software isn't open source either. And IBM gets lots of love for eclipse and other open source moves without being castigated for all the things they (still) do on the other side of the ledger.

You guys seem like the Shiites and Sunni in Iraq. No, the other side isn't to be trusted. But the consequence of not trusting, and escalating hostilities, is far worse than exploring what trust is offered, and building on it.

If you care about Microsoft becoming more free and open, support the people at Microsoft who are trying to bring them along.

Tim O'Reilly   [07.27.07 08:59 AM]

Dalibor --

"Software darwinism" was the phrase that Bill used to describe how Microsoft's strategy evolves. He argued that it's not all top down. A lot bubbles up, and wins over time. He claims that Microsoft's adoption of open source is like that. It started small, but has kept growing.

His talk was about the progress open source has made at Microsoft, how it's become clearer to them how important a movement it is, and how these are the latest steps in them moving toward open source.

Back to software darwinism, have you ever heard the story of how ASP.Net came about? It was very much a bottom up effort, surviving "software darwinism." I wrote about it in The Open Source Paradigm Shift.

Tim O'Reilly   [07.27.07 09:03 AM]

Dalibor --

This is significant because after writing to the OSI a few weeks ago to say they were considering submitting, in his talk he committed to submitting.

Dalibor Topic   [07.27.07 11:30 AM]

* 'they are on the losing side of the history'

Microsoft made more money in a quarter than Red Hat is worth altogether, and continues to increase their profits, year after year, despite gloomy predictions of their demise being just around the corner being thrown around for years.

I'd say that the losing-side/winning-side model of history underlying those predictions is wrong.

* 'You guys seem like the Shiites and Sunni in Iraq.'

You're one of us, Tim. You're a part of the patchwork of 'communities', 'tribes' and common people that's building up the larger open source community.

Many people trust you to keep doing a good job at being the 'kingmaker', like they trust OSI to keep doing a good job of drawing lines between acceptable and unacceptable legalese.

* 'the consequence of not trusting, and escalating hostilities, is far worse than exploring what trust is offered'

If the 'losing-side/winning-side' model of history is correct, then if Microsoft is on the losing side, it will somehow eventually manage to destroy itself, regardless of what the open source community does.

Free software and open source development has never been a secret cult being practiced by the selected few in seclusion. Microsoft is happily participating where they find it useful to them to do so, directly or indirectly. If they really cared about joining some winning side of the history, they'd know how to do it by now.

Does Microsoft thinking about one far away day maybe submitting the n+1-th variations on the BSD/GPL to the OSI lists really mean much, other than adding two more vanity licenses to OSI's large collection, and letting Microsoft get some gratis open source image polish for their Codeplex site?

They will come around when their balance sheet says that they have to. If (and when) that time comes, we'll hear it from their leadership, not from the lovably irritating straw men Microsoft puts out in front of the open source community to bash around.

(and thanks for the 'software darwinism' pointers ... it seems too close to 'social darwinism' for my taste in analogies)

Tim O'Reilly   [07.27.07 11:59 AM]

Dalibor -- my reference to "you guys" was specifically to all the people saying Microsoft is innately bad. All I can say is that if you believe that, you've never spent much time with folks at Microsoft. It's easy to demonize someone you don't know. Harder when you actually talk with them. There are some people there (including the top leadership) that I don't trust, but there are a lot of people trying to make positive change. Help them, don't hate them.

As to the "losing side of history", my thinking is shaped profoundly by my study of the history of the IBM PC, which broke IBM's old stranglehold on the industry via proprietary hardware. That change didn't make IBM go away, but they had to change to survive, and now everyone thinks they are a good guy.

I predict a very similar outcome for Microsoft. Free and open source software have changed the world, but not in the way we expected. It doesn't mean that "free" triumphs, just that the locus of proprietary value capture and protection changes from software to something else, just as it previously changed from hardware to software.

I've written about these ideas at length in The Open Source Paradigm Shift and What is Web 2.0, and events since I wrote those pieces have only confirmed my view.

I completely agree that Microsoft is participating where they find it useful ... but so is IBM, and Sun, and Google, and Oracle, and even Red Hat, Canonical, MySQL and other "open source" companies. It's never just black and white.

Dalibor Topic   [07.27.07 03:23 PM]

I'm highly sceptical because I've heard proclamations that Microsoft has changed regularly for more than ten years now, since their 'embrace' of Java, like

This time, it's supposed to be for real, like all the many times it was supposed to be real before, but didn't quite turn out to be for one miraculous reason or another.

I'm curious what makes you sure that the people from Microsoft aren't just telling you what they think you'd like to hear?

It's just a couple of months ago that some people have heralded the Microsoft-Novel deal as the best thing ever, and the ultimate change in Microsoft's strategy. It took less then 24 hours for Mr. Ballmer to prove those people wrong, by slinging FUD about software patents in the general direction of everyone else, returning to the good old days of the 'Get The Facts' campaign.

And within just a couple of months, Mr. Ballmer and his expert team came back with the '235 infringing software patents that Microsoft is too busy to name', threatening to sue those that refuse to lick his boots.

It was very amusing to watch both the people who thought that Microsoft had actually changed cringe, and the nice people in Microsoft's open source division not blog a word about it until it was clear that Mr. Ballmer's attacks had backfired, badly, and damage control was necessary.

The last couple of months since that have shown that Microsoft's open source division is rather impotent when it comes to actually influencing their management: neither Mr. Matusow, nor Mr. Hilf, nor Mr. Ramji have said or done something of particular merit in that affair.

Instead, Mr. Hilf managed to get quoted with pearls of wisdom like 'Linux is dead in 2007', Mr. Matusow seems to be assigned to beat the drum for OOXML against ODF, and Mr. Ramji ... I have no idea what Mr. Ramji is currently doing there, but I haven't heard either from him, nor from his colleagues what they, as open source 'change agents' inside Microsoft, have done to fix the problem that Mr. Ballmer created.

That would be a contribution worth being called 'significant'.

Sending OSI a nice e-mail or two is lovely, but it doesn't matter to most people outside Microsoft and their small circle of influence. Removing Microsoft's patent threats against all open source projects, otoh, matters to the whole open source community.

Instead of that, Mr. Hilf, when questioned about that subject at OSCON, chose to talk about his spam mail, according to chromatic:

That doesn't mean that Mr. Hilf is evil. Just that he does not have enough influence or courage to talk frankly about Microsoft's policy.

Anonymous   [07.27.07 03:35 PM]

This "blah-blah darwinism" is something that a lot of people make a fuss about. A "buzz-word". But what's really happening? Microsoft is just trying to catch with what they perceive are "trends". It's not strange since they never create, they just follow and never lead. (Though sometimes their propaganda machine motivates people that just repeat the same grandiose IT language.

Miguel de Icaza   [07.27.07 05:12 PM]


You seem to be arguing that Matusow is in some kind of evil quest against ODF and that is not the case. In fact Microsoft endorsed ODF to become an ISO standard at the time the voting of it came to pass.

Microsoft is on its right to try to get OOXML adopted as well as ODF.

Sadly there are a lot of half-facts and partial truths being used by some people that have decided to stop OOXML. Matusow is not attacking ODF, but merely defending OOXML.

As for Bill Hilf, he is on the record about the partial quotations or out of context quotations that you quote.

You can keep bring bogus information up if you think that will advance your cause. But isnt that precisely what Tony Snow would do? (you made a reference to him).

We should -all- stop using FUD and try to keep a our minds open.


Roy Schestowitz   [07.27.07 06:56 PM]


I disagree with you. there might be other motives here.

There is a certain concern that Microsoft’s OSI approach could further divide an already-fragile and already-divided community. Microsoft’s affairs with Novell may have put an end to what we once knew as OSDL.

Could Microsoft turn the open source community against itself simply through involvement? Could the term “Open Source” be further ‘diluted’ by the inclusion of a “Shared Source” licence, which might fall under the same umbrella of definitions? Last month I spotted an article that referred to “Shared Source” as “Open Source”, arguing that our ‘friend’ Mr. Hilf is actually spreading the open source message around Asia. This is far worse than Sun Microsystems’ work in this area.

Remember deals with XenSource, Zend, among a few other companies that receive incentives from Microsoft in order to abolish and neglect Linux performance? Does this not remind you of Novell, which neglected ODF and began working on OOXML ‘translators’?

Also see:

" When I really looked through Microsoft’s open-source Web site, it’s objectives became clearer: To convince IT managers that they can use open-source software side by side with Microsoft software….

The objective is seemingly about interoperability, but what Microsoft really wants is to prevent defections—customers replacing some of their software with open-source alternatives. "

Or this:

"On the software side, Microsoft today announced a partnership with open source solution vendor SpikeSource to eventually certify all of SpikeSource’s SpikeIgnited solutions on the Microsoft Windows platform."

Sean Kelley   [07.27.07 08:02 PM]

How can one reconcile the 'patent protection racket' that they have successfully pushed with the Linspire and Novells of the world with this offering? To me it seems more like a carrot and stick approach.

I have dealt with them in the past at a business level and they have used the protection racket approach even within their own business groups - such as if you work more closely with this MS group we can protect more easily from the sharks in the other MS group that may try to turn a product to compete with you.

I remain skeptical in no small part based on my dealings with them. I see nothing new here.


chromatic   [07.27.07 08:22 PM]


> As for Bill Hilf, he is on the record about the partial quotations or out of context quotations that you quote.

Mr. Hilf did not answer a simple question. Mr. Hilf is no fool. If Mr. Hilf wanted to answer the question, Mr. Hilf was fully capable of doing something other than bloviating away from the question and hoping that paragraphs full of happy words in his non-answer were sufficient to make the audience forget that Nat actually asked Mr. Hilf to follow up on his vague pronouncement that Microsoft's policies were changing by being concrete and specific about exactly which policies were changing and how they were changing.

Thus I conclude that Mr. Hilf did not want to answer the question.

Actions talk. Pretty words don't. If there were a thousand people in the room, and if Mr. Hilf spent a minute and a half not answering a simple question, Mr. Hilf wasted twenty five hours of time saying exactly nothing.

I guess it's okay though, now that we know the amusing fact that Mr. Hilf believes that he may possibly get more e-mail than Mr. Gates. Aww. Ain't he cute. What was the question again? Oh yeah -- HOW exactly is Microsoft changing its stripes?

I welcome a concrete and specific answer to that question. Perhaps Mr. Hilf will eventually deign to answer that question.

If you care to dig into my writing history, you will see that I expressed the same skepticism when Sun said "Java is now open source!" and "Open Solaris is now open source!" (to name the first two examples that come to mind) months before ever actually releasing any source code to the public under an OSI-approved license.

Please do not accuse me of FUD again.

TaQ   [07.27.07 08:51 PM]


This is not about demonization of people, we can't know all of them, but we do know the company they work for years. We do know the company practices and way to do things.

Maybe it's a fault don't believe they can change, but I think it's a bigger fault believe they suddenly are going to play on the same game they were fighting for many years. The "embrace, extend, exterminate" thing is still around. They are still fighting the Open/Free Software. Check the patents FUD! It is not a proof of good will.

I agree with Josh Nursing when he says it is about marketing, because nowadays Open Source is not more the kind of thing people used to think some years ago and can give you some *good* money. And I also agree with WhenWillYouLearn when he says "the same old trick, step 1, embrace". What about with just one shot they get some money with this (they are already getting some money with the patents thing!) and split (already splitting right now) the open source community? Cool, uhn?

"If you care about Microsoft becoming more free and open, support the people at Microsoft who are trying to bring them along."

Well, I really don't care about this, seriously. I don't use their softwares and I'm fine. I see more complication on companies that use their softwares than the others that don't. Of course on these situations you can make a lot of business and win a lot money with all the "interoperability" thing, but I don't care about that, I'm fine with what I have. All that I care about is they play a fair game and stay out of the way of Open Source with all the FUDs, lies and political things.

"He claims that Microsoft's adoption of open source is like that. It started small, but has kept growing."

Till it explodes on a "BIG-BADA-BUM". ;-)

"You guys seem like the Shiites and Sunni in Iraq."

The big difference is that there one side wants to kill the other. Here we don't need to kill them to survive, but seems that they don't think the same way.

"I completely agree that Microsoft is participating where they find it useful"

I don't see a problem on "participation", but I see some on "extermination".

"It smacks of the same attitude that Microsoft once had towards open source, just in the opposite direction."

Christopher, a difference is that the Open Source community never really needed them seriously to make their stuff (did you guys saw some open source project stoping because there were not support from Microsoft?), but now they need the Open Source Community. Not the same attitude because, at least for me, things keep going the same way without their support.

"Rather than bully them when they're trying to take corrective action and be a positive member of the open source world, we should encourage them and guide them along the path."

Could be a waste of time if later things are not really the way they seems to be. People could be writing good open source software instead to pay attention and waste resources with them just because they say "hey, dudes, we are cool now". Time is a valuable resource.

"We should -all- stop using FUD and try to keep a our minds open."

Miguel, you know who are the FUD masters, don't you? The open source side does not have a chance with them about that. The patent thing is a recent proof that they don't have limits on finding ways to create FUD (and get some money from it). So, it's more a thing to be said to Microsoft than to the Open Source community.

Fluke   [07.28.07 12:23 AM]

Tim is missing an important point when Bill Hilf refers to "Software darwinism." As I understand Tim's prospective, Microsoft is migrating from an "old model" to a "new model." If this prospective is true then we should see "Get the facts" be phased out in favor of more effort being put into the new MS "OSS"-like websites. But that isn't what software darwinism means. Instead it means that regions of the worlds (or markets/industries) that one system adapts better than another. But if the same mutation occurs in both North American and South America, failure of one to survive in one area doesn't mean the other ends up dominating both. Likewise with software darwinism, Microsoft will seed "Get the facts," close source and their new OSS-look-a-like and see what grows in reach region or market sector. That is very different from realizing they are on the wrong side of history as being a universal truth.

As Tim points out, Google and IBM are multi-faced as well, both companies use closed source for the majority of their business model. What is more important about IBM's Eclipse offering is it's license doesn't inherit any additional restrictions from the foundation blocks it builds on. For example, the Java SDK does not put limits on how the Eclipse UI can be modified. It also does not put limits on redistribution.

Microsoft pushes Visual Studio plug-ins as being "open source" because it is licensed under the MS-SS. But those are not the only terms that must be followed. Actually try modifying the Visual Studio plug-ins while retaining full rights to modify and redistribute. You will not be able too. The reason is that at some point in modifying and recompiling the plug-in, the developer must agree to the terms of the VS SDK. This puts limits on modification of the plug-in such a strict limits on how the UI may be modified. Also it puts limits on redistribution based on the quality of the modification. The VS SDK EULA does not allow following "release early, release often" since releasing alpha or beta versions of the plug-in violate the EULA.

Taking MSDN and proving easier access to some of the code instead of continuing to require a subscription does not mean that the spirit of open source has been embarrassed. You can't build on top of SDKs and frameworks that have EULAs that violate the three basic rights of an Open Source Definition and then claim to be honoring the spirit in which the OSD was written. Microsoft still has NOT opened discussions with the community on how to correct those SDK EULAs!! Port 25 only points out that no lawyers work for MS-OSL. At the same time, Port 25 has gotten hold of people beyond MS-OSL to discuss other things but never bothered to present a lawyer to discuss the clauses that Codeplex projects inherit which violates OSD. In this way, Port 25 and Codeplex falls short of moving forward toward being a true OSS offering even if MS-SS by itself fits OSD. MS-SS + VS SDK EULA is *NOT* something that can fit the OSD.

I opened my mind to Microsoft and Bill Hilf. Port 25 pointed out that Microsoft supports XenSource, has made Virtual PC available for no charge and support using VMs. Then Microsoft announces that Vista Home can *NOT* be used on a VM. Which is right? That Microsoft is supportive of VMs or a trend of EULAs that reject use of a VM? Does Google have a restriction on what software can be used on a VM? Does IBM have a restriction on what software can be used on a VM?

There is a big difference between keeping an open mind and being a sucker. Microsoft is trying to make themselves out as providing (or moving forward with providing) something that they are still far from really actually following through on. They are playing the loopholes to follow the legal definition of open source while *REJECTING* discussions about honoring the spirit of open source. Can you take something that has no practical use by itself as being open source when the requirements to actually use it mean accepting terms that violate the open source definition?! Does the fact that the license directly applied fits OSD? Shouldn't it matter that in it's practical form, the developer needed to accept terms that violate OSD? Or is pointing that out just being a Shiite or Sunni would do?

The way I see it, Tim's wants us to do more than just trust. He seems to want us to remain blind or shut-up. Otherwise, anyone who speaks up about what is actually being offered will be attacked with the label of Shiite or Sunni in Iraq.

Rick James   [07.28.07 03:40 AM]

The way I see it, Tim's wants us to do more than just trust. He seems
to want us to remain blind or shut-up.

Of course he does. If we *DON'T* shut up or stop telling people who deserve to be told to sod off like him and Miguel to do so, all we're going to have a pair of Tony Snow wannabees who are more interested in pushing the Microsoft brand of Crack than dealing with the *REAL* concerns of the Free/Opensource worlds.

TaQ   [07.28.07 05:32 AM]

"The way I see it, Tim's wants us to do more than just trust. He seems to want us to remain blind or shut-up. Otherwise, anyone who speaks up about what is actually being offered will be attacked with the label of Shiite or Sunni in Iraq."

Fluke, and as Tim himself wrote, "it's never just black and white", so we keep talking about that. ;-)

It's amazing how people are criticized and labeled as radicals for not trusting or giving support to the Microsoft things (old or new) even when they *don't need those things*. Seems that we need to support everything that comes from there, or they will call us "extremists" or tell us that we "don't know about the business models" or about some "cool and adult" corporate thing.

I don't want to exterminate Microsoft. Extermination *is* extreme and radical! I just want they get out of my way and let me do my things. Trying to be "open source" seems to me more like another complication to create some noise and mess the things out than any help to the open source community. If we look around this "hey, now we're cool" thing we can see that they are still trying to screw open source on another fronts. So, they're still on our way, messing the things up.

About the "business and corporate" thing, seems that the people who keep telling us that we don't understand it or *really* need to support it even it is *a thing that we don't need* (and you know what you need, right?) sees more than technical stuff and code coming from there. The way they keep insisting on this is kind of weird, it's kind of those car sellers who tries to sell you a big, heavy and *more expensive* car when you just need a bettle. Seems that there's more than functionality involved on this kind of situation.

Tim O'Reilly   [07.28.07 08:27 AM]

Fluke, I don't want people to be "blind or shut up." I thought you made some really good and substantial points in your post (unlike some others that were just rants about how Microsoft is evil.)

Having an open mind doesn't mean being stupid.

Obviously, Microsoft is a LONG way from embracing open source whole heartedly, but they have made very substantial moves from the days when they said it was a "cancer," and an "intellectual property destroyer."

Yes, they are using it strategically where it helps them, and fighting it where it hurts them. But so is every other proprietary software company.

The point is that they are recognizing that there are many cases where it helps them (versus a few years ago when they saw it ONLY as a threat.) I believe that they will change over time because there will be more and more cases where it helps them and fewer where it hurts them.

Do you think IBM supports open source because of the goodness of their hearts? No. It's because in their market position, it helps them more than it hurts them, or it hurts their competitors more than it hurts IBM. So look at Microsoft's actions and you'll see where they are using open source strategically. Silverlight, to attack Adobe, is a good example, very analogous to IBM's use of Eclipse to dominate the Java market.

To the extent that Microsoft's open source efforts are half-hearted or have a catch, they won't work. That's why I ultimately believe that they will change. They aren't stupid. Where open source works best for them, they will use it.

If you believe, as I do, that open source is science, not religion, economics, not voodoo, you believe that ultimately it will be adopted by rational actors.

Fluke   [07.28.07 08:54 AM]

But I don't see this as a battle with Microsoft. Being a software developer and going to war with Microsoft is like trying to do war with water. Both Microsoft and water cover the majority of the Earth in their respective ways. And Microsoft, like every large company, will have multiple faces and attacking individuals for the results of the whole company is usually just silly.

So, is this a battle against Bill Hilf? I don't see it that way either. For the most part, BH has been honest with where he is coming from.

Instead, my issues of "trust" are with how others interpret what is said. Here are some misinterpretations of what Bill Hilf, Port 25 and Codeplex provides:

1) I have never heard BH ever say that MS old models are going away. "Darwinism" doesn't mean out with the old. The turtle continues to exist after 200 million years. It only means there are other regions where a mutation is more likely to survive. Microsoft's "Get the Facts" method of doing business, like the turtle, will continue to survive in the areas it does well in.

2) I have never heard BH say that Microsoft is now going to honor the *spirit* of OSS or Free Software. Only that MS will submit two licenses to see if those licenses fit the OSI's Open Source Definition.

3) I have never heard BH say that Microsoft is going to share with the GNU/Linux community. As Michael R. Bernstein points out, both of the MS-SS licenses are incompatible with the GPL which create a clear distinctive line between GPL/LGPL covered code and MS-SS code. In no one project will the two meet! While BH has talked about a "bridge" to the OSS community, the code between the two different licenses can't cross the bridge, only the developer can.

4) BH has never talked about Codeplex projects following the spirit of the Open Source Definition. Only that the project be under an OSI approved license. The GNU/Linux community has been willing to be vocal about how Intel and nVidia would "taint" the Linux kernel. It is just as important to be vocal about how the MS SDK EULA terms also "taint" Codeplex projects from being under the true spirit of the OSI's OSD. If Codeplex is to be covered by the open source definition from a practical stand point then the MS SDK EULAs must provide wavers from apply additional restrictions on those projects.

Bottom line: Until BH opens discussions on his end about show stopper issues such as the restrictions that MS SDK places on OSS-like projects that depend on the SDK, then the fact that MS-SS licenses are submitted to the OSI is a non-issue for the the OSS commuity. Submitting just the immediate license and not all the restrictions that are placed on modification, redistribution and use for the projects for discussion is a half-ass way "joining" the community. There is *no dedication* to honoring the spirit of the Open Source Definition when MS continues to knowingly apply SDK license terms that violate OSD.

Miguel de Icaza   [07.28.07 11:21 AM]


I would like to learn about these restrictions on the Microsoft SDK that you mention am not familiar with them. I have in the past ran into certain restrictions on using some software on non-Windows platforms (I believe there were some sample programs, and I would like to see those running on Linux to start with) but so far I have only seem relatively small islands, I have not seen anything major for platform APIs.

I do not have exposure to those 650 projects quoted, but at least with five significant components (IronPython, IronRuby, Dynamic Language Runtime, ASP.NET AJAX client library and ASP.NET Ajax collection of controls) they can all be used without a Microsoft SDK on Linux, Unix or Windows using Mono.

In addition to Mono, that software can be used elsewhere (like traditional OSS software). For instance Brendan Eich from Mozilla had a presentation a few days ago about a project (IronMonkey) to support IronPython and IronRuby (I imagine that the DLR will be covered as well, as its at the code of both) on top of the Tamarind JIT engine in Mozilla.

The ASP.NET Ajax client libraries can be used without ASP.NET, you can use it with PHP/Ruby/Perl/Python applications today and there are no strings attached.


Dalibor Topic   [07.28.07 07:31 PM]

Miguel, I don't argue that Mr. Matusow is on an evil quest against ODF. I don't see anything evil about him 'beating the drum for OOXML against ODF', as I put it. A lot of people beat the drum against OOXML, and that's not evil, either.

It's just the obligatory marketing noise that you get when you have two competing standards.

My point is that the evidence does not fit the theory that he, or his colleagues inside Microsoft's open source division are making the change on significant issues happen.

Asking for OSI approval for MS-PL/MS-CL is, in my opinion, a cosmetic issue. Adding an 'opensource' page on cosmetic issue.

The significant issue for most open source developers is Microsoft's 235 software patents threat from two months ago. I would expect that it is a pressing issue in particular for Microsoft's open source division, and I would expect something more substantial from Mr. Hilf on it, if he were the agent of 'earthshaking' changes at that company.

Unfortunately, I can't find anything in reports from OSCON about Mr. Hilf having done something significant on that pressing issue. Or Mr. Matusow. Or someone else from their circle.

My theory is that, while those gentlemen do some nice work on some cosmetic issues, they don't seem to have the properties ascribed to them, so that the significant issues are way out of their reach.

Chances are I'm completely wrong about it. In that case, what's your theory?

Dalibor Topic   [07.29.07 08:32 AM]

Tim, you say

"The point is that they are recognizing that there are many cases where it helps them (versus a few years ago when they saw it ONLY as a threat.) I believe that they will change over time because there will be more and more cases where it helps them and fewer where it hurts them."

I've seen Microsoft contribute to GPLd projects like gcc or gdb more than 7 years ago:

That does not sound like they were seeing open source 'ONLY' as a threat a few years ago.

I'm curious why you insist in simplifying the complex picture of Microsoft's long involvement with open source development to a mythical duality of conflict vs. trust.

Tim O'Reilly   [07.29.07 08:38 AM]

Dalibor --

Contributing patches is a big difference from releasing your own projects. They were dipping their toe in the water then. Now they've got a whole foot in.

I'm not saying that Microsoft is to be trusted completely in this arena. They have many agendas. All I'm saying is that dumping on them when they try to make a positive move just supports the view of the people inside Microsoft who think that there's no possibility of rapproachment with OSS, and undercuts those who are reaching out.

I believe in criticizing people when they do something nasty, and praising them when they do something good, and not telling them that they ARE bad or good.

Have you not had kids? Finding fault all the time is a sure way to turn someone sullen.

Dalibor Topic   [07.29.07 11:03 AM]


I think that as with any large enough company, there are areas where the open source community collaborates with them, like IronPython, and there are areas where we are in conflict with them, like aggressive use of software patents.

I don't think we'll get to a situation where we have exclusively one or the other, or that we really had such a clearly cut situation in the past.

It is an attractively simple narrative to assume that we're all helping Mr. Hilf help the wary Microsoft corporation to finally make the switch to the winning side of history, though the reality on the ground always was and remains more complex. The mixed response Mr. Hilf's keynote received on this page is a reflection of that complex reality, in my opinion, rather than one sided demonization of that company.

Chances are that there are some people inside Microsoft who'd like to indulge themselves in a simplistically selective us vs. them picture, and play political games against open source adoption inside Microsoft using that as evidence in their cause. Chances are they would do that regardless of whether we cheer on Mr. Hilf and his aides for the actions they take and things they say.

That's nothing we can fix from outside Microsoft: it's a hiring (and firing) issue that the company will deal with on its own if it ever sees it as detrimental to its commercial activities.

From the entertaining experience of watching open source luminaries cuddle up to proprietary JVM vendors in a vain hope of them switching over to the open source development model for more than half a decade until the people took the issue in their own hands, I'd say that we need to have people who speak truth to power working along those that speak softly in order to challenge and change the status quo. I think that big stick diplomacy is a much more effective approach than each component of it employed in isolation.

That's why I am glad to know that you, Miguel and others are providing the diplomacy part of 'big stick diplomacy'. I don't think that you'll have much success if you ignore the other component of it. Regardless, I hope you succeed.

Roy Schestowitz   [07.31.07 01:26 AM]


> That does not sound like they were
> seeing open source 'ONLY' as a
> threat a few years ago.

Not at all. They just call it a cancer and say it's "unamerican", until they have to pretend to like it in order to destroy it. They want to do to the GPL what they did to ODF with their Novell/Turbolinux/Linpire/Xandros deals, where they PAID companies $millions just to give some pseudo-support of an anti-standard.

Dalibor Topic   [07.31.07 05:32 AM]


Mr. Ballmer took a bit of his time to speak frankly about open source at the financial analyst meeting, the same day that Mr. Hilf tried to charm the OSCON crowd. Mr. Ballmer said:

"Open source: open source has been the issue that surrounds us. Could a commercial model like Microsoft compete with open source? And we've worked very hard on making the value of a commercial company surpass what the open source community can deliver, because frankly, it's not a business model we can embrace. It's inconsistent with shareholder value. And we've done a very good job, as you'll hear; for the first time in a few years we took some share back from Linux on the server the last quarter. And I think we've really got the formula sorted through."

I believe Microsoft's CEO's frank words about Microsoft's incapability to embrace an open source business model weigh a lot heavier than Mr. Hilf's speech at OSCON.

Mr. Ballmer believes that Microsoft has figured out a good way to compete with Linux, according to their numbers. Without further guessing into what that way entails, I think that's a good indicator of whether Microsoft needs and wants to change, and I believe the answer to that is a frank 'no'.

The inconvenient truth is that Microsoft regularly manages to outsmart its (open source) competition: from OOXML vs. ODF, to the Linux distributor deals, from killing Java on the desktop, to outselling Linux in China.

Yes, sometimes that costs them a bit of money, but money is not a problem for Microsoft: they get fifty fresh millions to play with every day.

Mr. Hilf could just stand there throwing bundled hundred dollar bills into the audience during his next OSCON keynote, and Microsoft would still make a nice profit (and a lot of new friends ;).

Roy Schestowitz   [07.31.07 11:30 PM]


I am assuming you are a Microsoft employess or parner.

> The inconvenient truth is that Microsoft
> regularly manages to outsmart its (open source)
> competition: from OOXML vs. ODF, to the Linux
> distributor deals, from killing Java on the
> desktop, to outselling Linux in China.

Outsmart?!?!?! Have you followed what was happening? Microsoft corrupted the ISO and made predatory deals in order to fight ODF. Much of what it did is illegal. In China it has been dumping products. That is illgal as well. It's anticompetitive. Java and extensions, as revealed in Comes vs Iowa, are a Microsoft crime as well.

Learn from here:

There is a proven track record of crime and corruption. I am saying this with confidence. Onyl 2 weeks ago, Robbie Bach was caught inside trading, essentially stealing $6 from investors. Where the investigation? They caught him. He never got any punishment.

Roy Schestowitz   [08.01.07 01:30 AM]

Sorry for the huge number of typos. I wrote this at the heat of the moment.

SubSonica   [08.01.07 03:19 AM]

Dear Tim: IMHO either you are being dangerously naive here or are treating your audience as naive: It's the same old tiring pattern in Microsoft behaviour here.
We have all witnessed this "dialogue" recently with their patent "deals" in order to extort money out Free Software users and insert the Microsoft tax in the Free Software world through money-starvating Gnu/Linux distributors.

We all know Microsoft "dialogues" already: You say that "By submitting their licenses to the OSI, Microsoft is taking a step towards engaging in a dialogue" this is phase 1 of "Embrace", afterwards here will come the Extend and the Extinguish, as has been the 100% of the cases before with these Microsoft guys.

The day Microsoft releases Windows and Office under the GPLv3 will be the day you can begin to trust these guys. Expect hell to freeze before that happens.

SubSonica   [08.01.07 03:22 AM]

Dear Tim: IMHO either you are being dangerously naive here or are treating your audience as naive: It's the same old tiring pattern in Microsoft behaviour here.
We have all witnessed this "dialogue" recently with their patent "deals" in order to extort money out Free Software users and insert the Microsoft tax in the Free Software world through money-starvating Gnu/Linux distributors.

We all know Microsoft "dialogues" already: You say that "By submitting their licenses to the OSI, Microsoft is taking a step towards engaging in a dialogue" this is phase 1 of "Embrace", afterwards here will come the Extend and the Extinguish, as has been the 100% of the cases before with these Microsoft guys.

The day Microsoft releases Windows and Office under the GPLv3 will be the day you can begin to trust these guys. Expect hell to freeze before that happens.

Tim O'Reilly   [08.01.07 09:26 AM]

There's a third option, Subsonica, namely that I know (or at least believe I know) something that you aren't considering. If you've read my articles, like The Open Source Paradigm Shift and What is Web 2.0, you'll see that I believe that the rules of the computer industry have changed as fundamentally in the last decade as they did on IBM in the eighties. Proprietary software used to be a supreme source of competitive advantage, just as proprietary hardware was a supreme source of competitive advantage for IBM. In the era of the network, the supreme source of competitive advantage is in systems that harness network effects to grow more valuable the more people use them.

This doesn't mean that proprietary software will go away entirely, any more than proprietary hardware will go away entirely. It is still going to be an important competitive weapon in many markets. But there are many other markets where Microsoft will *have* to adopt open source, because it's a powerful way to get the virality and network effects that matter in today's market.

And once you have a true network effects advantage, you can open up your software without any loss of that advantage.

Dalibor Topic   [08.01.07 10:04 AM]


I don't work for Microsoft or partner with them, as I regard many of the things Microsoft has done in the past as deeply unethical, including their software patent attacks on open source projects.

chromatic   [08.01.07 12:01 PM]

Tim, in which markets does Microsoft have to embrace network effects through encouraging open participation right now?

The only one that I can even think of as coming close is XNA, but I don't see that as a matter of necessity.

Tim O'Reilly   [08.01.07 01:35 PM]

Well, so far we can see them trying open source with silverlight to try to get an advantage against flash, which is already widely deployed, and has network effects from all the existing flash content.

I expect to see them try something in search. I wouldn't be surprised to see them join with Yahoo! in supporting hadoop in a big way.

Anywhere that they are #2 or out of the game.

This isn't going to happen right away. But it took IBM a long time to realize that they had to play a new game too. Measure how long it was from the introduction of the PC to IBM's embrace of open source...

And IBM is still a proprietary company, where-ever and whenever they can get away with it. So too will Microsoft be.

My whole point isn't that the leopard has changed his spots, but that when an ecosystem changes, companies adapt or die.

Assuming that the world is the same as it was in the 90's is a bad strategy for free and open source advocates, just as it is a bad strategy for Microsoft. Anyone thinking about these issues needs to think about the future, not the past.

SubSonica   [08.02.07 05:57 AM]

Dear Tim:

"Assuming that the world is the same as it was in the 90's is a bad strategy for open source advocates" (Please Tim, donĀ“t forget the "free" of "FOSS": we know corporations don't like it, but it is a fundamental part of the essence of the whole thing)

Well, Microsoft doesn't equal to "the world", and we can safely assume they are the same company as in the 90's using similar shady and unethical tactics... Microsoft has a established position to defend: They don't need to innovate or change their business models, and the only inroads they are making inside the FOSS world are in order to subvert, divide and disrupt as much as they can their perceived competition, that's why you never should trust them.
All their allegued "dialogues" and "IP bridges" are just tools to kill the competition. And once they have killed or bought most of the proprietary software competitors, the only competition that is left is FOSS.

You can see from jason matusows own words that they are very much 90's:

"I have no misconceptions about our motivations for doing what we do. MS is a business that is based on selling software for commercial gain. Not services, not hardware (XBox, Zune...IMHO are still software plays). We are going to build Office, and Windows, and SQL Server, and Exchange, and Project, and, and, and for profit."

Best regards

Tim O'Reilly   [08.02.07 11:47 AM]

Subsonica --

We'll just have to agree to disagree on this one. I think Microsoft would agree with me that Web 2.0 companies like Google are much more competition for them than FOSS. You reveal your framing of the problem when you say:

"once they have killed or bought most of the proprietary software competitors, the only competition that is left is FOSS."

That's a lot like the heated rhetoric in the early 80s that saw IBM's key competition as AT&T entering the computer market. FOSS companies have essentially the same business model as Microsoft, except that they've largely given up on revenue from the consumer market and instead target the corporate market. (So let's say they have the same business model as Oracle, just to be more precise.) And while OSS is far superior to proprietary software as a development model, and has some advantages in lower marketing costs, a close study of any FOSS companies shows that they have no demonstrated business model advantages over Microsoft's or Oracle.

Google's advertising model is a completely new model for monetizing software. It's a huge threat to Microsoft's whole monopoly, because Google generates huge revenues through completely other means.

I will predict that virtually every open source company (including Red Hat) will eventually be acquired by a big proprietary software company.

The real change to proprietary software is going to come from the Web 2.0 challenge.

This isn't to say that FOSS is unimportant. It's hugely important. It made Web 2.0 possible.

Look at the historical analogy. Relatively open standards for commodity computer hardware broke IBM's monopoly (and it's a historical irony that IBM was the company to introduce those standards)
but that didn't mean that a commodity hardware company rose up to threaten IBM's dominance of the computer industry.

Instead, IBM's dominance was overturned by a company with a new business model: proprietary software running on commodity machines.

Now, what we see is the threat to proprietary software from FOSS, but history repeats. The economic winners aren't FOSS companies, but companies building a new business model on top of FOSS. And that model is once again proprietary, just in a new way. That's why I keep saying that FOSS advocates are focused on the last war.

It's as if folks in 1984 were still trying to keep IBM from limiting customers from adding in third party memory. Yes, IBM had horrible business practices in limiting customer choice in mainframes, but in the long view, it didn't matter.

IBM changed after the marketplace changed. That marketplace change is what will ultimately make Microsoft embrace open source -- because it realizes that the locus of proprietary advantage has moved beyond software per se.

All this is argued at length in The Open Source Paradigm Shift and What is Web 2.0? If you read those, and want to argue with the points I make there, fine. But I'd rather not keep repeating myself in response to arguments that clearly don't understand where I'm coming from.

I could of course be wrong. But tell me why, with examples from real companies and their successes and failures. Don't just ignore my argument.

aL   [10.23.07 06:46 PM]

id just like to say: if anyone is using FUD, its the OSS comnutity.. just look at all these posts
"ms are evil"
"its all a trick"
"everything they write is crap"

there is NO proof to any of this. its just a attepmt to spread fear, uncertinty and doubt among windows users and devs.

i just find most oss people to be so contratictive. have such double standards.
doesnt ibm have an agenda? or red hat? yes they do, the same one microsoft and any other company has:

and get over it.. only companies produce real software, the guy in the basment writing something amazing is a vanishingly small procangate, and if he does he gets hired by a company anyway

foss people keep saying that everything should be gpl (apparently thats the only "real" foss licence) but then you are no diffrent! to me it seems that foss propenents are the ones who are most against competition. yeah they claim competition is good.. just as long as its not competition agains them!

Chris Wong   [12.27.07 08:29 PM]

I have two comments.

The first is on the requirement that there be contributions from users. I've found the amount of contributions one gets to one's Free Software project depends greatly on the kind of project it is. I had a programmers tool (a parser generator) that had only a few users, but more contributions than I could keep up with. On the other hand, I had a decidedly end-user program (the SETI@Home Service) that had tons of users, was mirrored on two continents, but I never had a single source contribution from a user.

The second comment is about your licensing allowances. Others have talked about the fact that MS's "share source" licenses[0] are *not* Open Source, so I won't get into that. However, they do *not* support the 4 freedoms either.

* The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.

The "shared source" licenses do not allow use for "commercial purposes" or distrubtion to anyone who is going to use it for "commercial purposes".

* The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs.

Again, if my needs happen to be "commercial", I can't adapt it to them.

Bill Gates   [01.05.08 03:49 AM]

Microsoft is and always will be Tfosorcim, we all know too well what that means, antitrust i.e., not to be trusted. Tfosorcim is a horrible beast that always has a hidden agenda. Once upon a time Tfosorcim tricked grandpa Buffett into giving him all his wealth, grandpa Buffett was deceived into believing Tfosorcim was a guardian angel.

A true story!


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