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Microsoft targets developers with 'open' license

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Microsoft is continuing its hesitant slide towards open source by releasing .NET code under a look-but-don't touch license.

The company said Wednesday it plans to offer source code for .NET Base Class Libraries, ASP.NET, Windows Forms, ADO.NET, XML and WPF in the .NET Framework 3.5 and Visual Studio 2008 due later this year.

After a summer spent dashing from one open source show to another trying to convince developers of its good intentions, Microsoft is releasing the code under a license recognized only in Redmond and which rather helpfully prevents any changes from being made to code. You can look though.

Code will be released under the Microsoft Reference License (Ms-RL).

Scott Guthrie, Microsoft general manager, blogged the look-but-don't touch approach would help developers debugging applications.

"Being able to step through and review the source should provide much better insight into how the .NET Framework libraries are implemented, and in turn enable developers to build better applications and make even better use of them," he writes.

While likely to help thousands of developers building Windows and .NET applications using Visual Studio, developers working with open source code will wonder why on Earth Microsoft has bothered to show them goods but not allowed them to touch.

The Ms-RL is not recognized by the Open Source Initiative (OSI), which approves open source licenses, and Microsoft has decided against submitting Ms-RL for official approval. Meanwhile, its companion license, the Microsoft Permissive License that was submitted to the OSI has been judged as flawed by that organization.

It is unclear if Microsoft plans to fix these problems to achieve compliance or if it'll simply follow its standard procedure of setting up its own body to rubber stamp its technologies and that excludes competitors.®

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