There’s been a lot of recent discussion about Mono, the open source implementation of the .Net framework, with some community members expressing concerns about the possible legal ramifications of deploying a technology rooted in the closed-source, Microsoft world.
To address these concerns Microsoft announced an extension to its “Community Promise” patent licensing to C# programs and Common Language Infrastructure (CLI), enabling open source usage of the technologies without fear of later patent claims. This protection covers open-source licensing models such as the LGPL or GPL. Peter Galli, Microsoft’s community manager, has more on this.
What does all this mean? The architect of Mono, Miguel de Icaza, responded to a number of press inquiries on this. For a sense of his views find below answers to a few common questions he’s received recently:
Q: There’s a lot of unease in the community. Do you think things like Microsoft’s “Community Promise” make a difference and make it easier to use Mono without fears around patents?
For pragmatists, it is another action from Microsoft in the right direction. Microsoft over the past few years has been making a lot of changes to adapt to the web, to open source and to distributed development.
They have open sourced very important pieces of code like IronPython, the Dynamic Language Runtime, IronRuby, the Managed Extension Framework, ASP.NET MVC, ASP.NET AJAX Client libraries, the Silverlight high-level controls, and the Silverlight control packs.
They also embraced XML for their office suite, opened up the specifications for the binary file format for office (both are enormous steps for achieving interoperability with their products), brought OOXML, XPS and their HD image file format for standardization and granting patent licenses for developers and users that implement and deploy those technologies.
All of these are positive trends, they have real impact in the quality of software being developed and they deserve more coverage than they currently get. Perhaps they get little coverage because they are aimed at developers, and not really at consumers.
But there is a sensationalism and tabloid like obsession with Microsoft that permeates some fringe groups, and for these there will never be anything that Microsoft can do.
Q: Why is this important? What difference will it make?
It will settle the disputes between folks that theorized that ECMA 334 and 335 were tainted and could not be used. At least the fear of patent infringement will be removed from the discussion, and we will be able to resume the discussion on technical grounds and actually focus on improving Linux, open source software and the .NET ecosystem.
Q: What’s else could Microsoft do?
There are a number of technologies that I would like to see covered by the Community Promise, like ADO.NET, ASP.NET and Windows.Forms. They are not mandatory for Linux as Linux applications do not really use them, but it would be nice to have them.
You can read more at Miguel’s blog.