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Microsoft straps open source jQuery to Visual Studio

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Microsoft is softening its attitude on shipping open-source code with Windows with a decision to distribute the handy jQuery JavaScript library with Visual Studio.

Corporate vice president of Microsoft's developer division Scott Guthrie has said Microsoft will distribute the popular library along with Intellisense, snippets, examples, and documentation "going forward," potentially cutting the time taken to build AJAX applications on .NET.

Guthrie promised Microsoft would become a good member of the jQuery community, by not forking code or departing from the main JQuery branch and by also contributing tests, bug fixes, and patches back to the jQuery project.

Separately, cell-phone giant Nokia has said it's also looking at using jQuery to build applications for its WebKit-based Web Run-Time. jQuery will be distributed with Nokia phones that ship with the Run-Time, a stripped down browser-rendering engine.

It's Microsoft's endorsement, though, that represents the most significant shift. jQuery lets you build AJAX applications using few keystrokes because commands can be chained together.

Distributing jQuery with Visual Studio will put these tools straight into the hands of developers building rich internet applications (RIAs) for Microsoft's .NET Framework with Visual Studio. It should mean coders get access to the same time-saving coding shortcuts as other people out of the box and mean greater compatibility between .NET-based sites in different browsers as developers building those sites should be using the same AJAX libraries as others.

Such is the head start jQuery has, and the importance Microsoft has attached to compatibility, that by supporting jQuery Microsoft has dispensed with its usual policy of re-inventing an existing technology and optimizing it to .NET - as it's done with Ruby.

"Rather than duplicate functionality, we thought, wouldn't it be great to just use jQuery as-is, and add it as a standard, supported, library in VS/ASP.NET, and then focus our energy building new features that took advantage of it," Guthrie said.

Microsoft has also overlooked the fact jQuery is available under the dreaded GNU's General Public License (GPL), under a dual licensing scheme. Instead, Microsoft seems comfortable with the fact jQuery is also available under the MIT license - Guthrie said JQuery will continue to ship under its MIT license.

It emerged earlier this year that Microsoft's server and tools division had decided it could not accept code from outside the company into its dynamic language runtime (DLR) to protect itself from unwanted licenses and IP claims. The company is, though, accepting external code contributions to IronRuby. ®

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