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Microsoft open-source license finds (some) love

'Intelligentsia' beats Google with AGPL

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A home-cooked Microsoft license has carved out a small but growing following among the open-source community in less than two years.

Microsoft's Public License (MS-PL) is used by 1.03 per cent of open-source projects less than two-years after it was officially recognized by the Open-Source Initiative and is poised to overtake the Mozilla Public License (MPL) in terms of popularity.

MS-PL is tenth in a list of licenses used by the community with MPL coming ninth and used by 1.25 per cent of projects. There's no sign of the Microsoft Reciprocal License, accepted by the OSI at the same time as MS-PL.

That's according to license and code watcher Black Duck Software, who attributed the rise in MS-PL to Microsoft's efforts to increase the appeal of its CodePlex project-hosting site. MS-PL is one of 1,577 software licenses from 200,000 projects analyzed by Black Duck.

MS-PL projects are oriented towards Microsoft's .NET and Windows. That means MS-PL's growth is likely a testament to the pervasiveness of .NET and Windows, and the huge developer base targeting them or that have an interest in bringing some form of open-source to .NET and Windows. Microsoft's own engineers have been kicking out MS-PL-license code to woo external coders too.

MS-PL is less to the taste of the vast majority of developers building open-source and not targeting .NET or Windows. These are using licenses that are not synonymous with single project or stack.

According to Black Duck, the run-away license by far remains GPLv2, used by 50.5 per cent of open-source projects, followed by LGPLv2.1 at 10 per cent.

But GPLv2 is slipping, down from 53 per cent in January. Black Duck believes the rising star is GPLv3, finished in July 2007. GPLv3 has passed the Apache license in popularity and will surpass BSD to take the number four slot "in the next couple of months," Black Duck director of product marketing Eran Strod told The Reg.

Microsoft's Public License has a huge gap to close if it's grow much further. The number-eight license is Code Project Open License (CPOL), used by 3.24 per cent of open-source projects - a stat that means MS-PL would have to more than double in use to overtake CPOL. Strod noted though, MS-PL is one of the faster growing licenses being used while others, such as MPL and GPLv2, have fallen off.

Bootnote

Red Hat has claimed a surprising level of adoption by the Affero General Public License (AGPLv3), completed in November 2007 just after MS-PL was recognized by the OSI.

Richard Fontana, Red Hat's open source licensing and patent counsel, told the Open-Source Business Conference (OSBC) in San Francisco, California recently, the uptake is coming as "idealist hackers" turn against Google because code in its hosted services such as Gmail, Docs, and Maps is mostly closed.

Fontana said a "hacker intelligentsia" of young programmers are becoming "very disturbed" by the trend of offloading computing to the cloud. "We are beginning to see a rise in anti-Google sentiment, that is similar to the anti-Microsoft sentiment in the open-source world," he said. "In their view, the old GPL versus BSD paradigm has become broken because, behind the firewall...there is no legal claim on the source code of the application doing your computation." ®

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