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Microsoft in OPEN-SOURCE .Net love-in with new foundation

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Build 2014 Microsoft has opened its .Net programming framework to the developer community by releasing the code for a broad range of .Net-related software as open-source projects under the stewardship of a new, dedicated foundation.

The surprise announcement came during the Thursday keynote at Redmond's annual Build developer conference, taking place this week in San Francisco.

Overseeing the open-source projects will be the .Net Foundation, an independent group composed of company representatives and community leaders. For now, the foundation will be led by a three-member board that will include representatives from Microsoft Open Technologies and Redmond's .Net development team, along with Xamarin CTO Miguel de Icaza.

De Icaza has long been one of the most vocal proponents of open-source development using Microsoft technologies, having previously created Mono – a cross-platform, open-source implementation of .Net – and served as a founding member of Microsoft's CodePlex Foundation.

At launch, the .Net Foundation will oversee 24 open-source projects including Microsoft code, and also some software developed by Xamarin, which has been working closely with Redmond on cross-platform mobile development tools based on .Net technologies.

The announcement that the newly rechristened .Net Compiler Platform – formerly known as Project Roslyn – would be handed off to the .Net Foundation as open source drew particularly appreciative applause from the audience at Build.

The .Net Compiler Platform comprises the next-generation versions of Microsoft's C# and Visual Basic compilers, which include APIs that provide direct access to individual components of the compilation chain – such as its syntax analyzers and code generators – making it possible to build sophisticated third-party development tools that offer perfect fidelity with Microsoft's own tools.

The Mono runtime makes it possible to use the Roslyn compilers on non-Windows platforms, too. During Thursday's Build keynote, de Icaza came on stage to demonstrate using .Net Compiler Platform components within Xamarin Studio running on a MacBook.

Other than the compilers, the full list of projects to be stewarded by the new foundation includes the ASP.Net family of projects – which Microsoft released as open source in 2012 – along with such tools as the Entity Framework, the OWIN Authentication Middleware, the Windows Azure .Net SDK, the Windows Phone Toolkit, and Xamarin's Mailkit and Mimekit libraries, among others.

At a glance, many of the projects have been released under the Apache 2.0 open-source license, although some carry other licenses.

"As I highlighted recently, we have seen a significant increase in the amount of open source software that makes up the foundation of the .Net development ecosystem, both from Microsoft and from other developers in the .Net community," S. "Soma" Somasegar wrote in an MSDN blog post. "The .Net Foundation builds upon this trend, and further helps the open ecosystem for .Net to flourish."

Not that .Net has won universal acceptance from the open-source community, even given the GPL-licensed Mono project. No less than Free Software Foundation daddy Richard Stallman has deemed writing software in C# "a gratuitous risk," despite Microsoft's promises that it won't assert its .Net patents against open-source projects.

But it's early days yet for the .Net Foundation, which as of this writing has yet to even post video of its own launch announcement at the Build 2014 keynote.

"In the upcoming months, the .Net Foundation will be inviting many companies and community leaders to join the foundation, including its Board of Directors and will then finalize its operational details, including governance models for its open source initiatives, membership structure and industry and community engagement," the foundation's website explains.

In the meantime, interested parties are advised to follow the foundation via its Twitter feed. ®

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