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Microsoft rethinks open source CodePlex site

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Microsoft's CodePlex site could be revised before the year's out to signpost genuinely open-source projects, after the company got itself in hot water.

Sam Ramji, senior director of platform strategy, told The Register that Microsoft hoped to wrap up internal discussions over what to do about CodePlex and resolve the issue before the New Year.

Options under consideration include - and this is sounding quite probable - creation of a series of CodePlex sub sites hosting projects according to their license type.

This could mean projects under academic licenses on CodePlex such as BSD, MIT, and the Apache Software License are listed on an academic.codeplex.com sub site. Currently, all projects are thrown into the same main site for potential users to search.

This got Microsoft in trouble in October when it emerged the company was posting code to CodePlex using licenses not compatible with the terms of the Open-Source Initiative (OSI). Microsoft describes CodePlex as its "open-source project hosting web site" and points users to a Wikipedia page on OSI licenses.

CodePlex homepage

CodePlex: sub-sites planned?

The catalyst for trouble was the Managed Extensibility Framework that was released under the Limited Permissive License (Ms-LPL), which tied MEF to Windows. A deeper dive into CodePlex also revealed ASP.NET code also lives on the site. Access to ASP.NET code is limited to qualified Microsoft customers, partners, and governments under a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) through the Microsoft Source License.

A sub-site approach could mean an ASP.NET.codeplex.com site is created, the idea being potential developers at least get to know what they are dealing with up front.

It sounds like the subject of "whither CodePlex" has become a philosophical issue for Microsoft. The company is debating what constitutes an open source project and whether that is defined as using an OSI-approved licenses versus those that do not use an OSI-approved license.

Ramji indicated the question of whether CodePlex should be called an "open-source project web hosting site" is also in play. "The larger question is can CodePlex have the tag line 'open-source code hosting' if we agreed open-source code means it's using an OSI-compliant license?" He added Microsoft would not want to release all code under an open-source license. ®

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