Microsoft bashes open source

Posted 3 May 2001 at 22:13 UTC by advogato Share This

All the news wires today are abuzz with the recent speech by Craig Mundie of Microsoft. In it, he proposes Microsoft's vision of "shared source", which attempts to combine many of the advantages of open source with the advantages of proprietary development. I'm posting this article to see if we can get a thoughtful discussion rolling.

For other coverage, please see the Slashdot posts on the first report of the speech and the speech itself. Also, Reuters and The New York Times have mainstream press coverage.

Eric Raymond posted a heads-up before the speech was delivered. It makes for interesting reading.

"Shared source" certainly isn't the first time a company has tried to hybridize the open source and proprietary models. Certainly, Sun's "community source" had many of the same goals, but you don't hear much about that these days, certainly compared with Sun's embracing of the GPL in such efforts as Gnome and OpenOffice. What advantages does shared source have? For users? For developers? Given Microsoft's market strength and the general respect for the technical aspects of .NET, it's reasonable to expect it will go pretty far. What will this mean for free software developers? Should we try to build bridges, or run away screaming?

Your well-considered thoughts on these questions are appreciated!

Article not horrible....but not good, posted 3 May 2001 at 23:54 UTC by RyanMuldoon » (Journeyer)

Much of the speech was fairly reasonable. It is true that a number of companies in the past couple years experienced "irrational exuberance" and ended up going under from having no real plans for making money. It is also true that a lot of computing is going to be focused on many disparate devices, all of which will be connected to the internet. These devices will need ways to talk to each other, and coordinate appropriately. Research into this area is great.

As for Microsoft's "Shared Source" model, I have mixed feelings. On one hand, it is smart on their part. They are allowing their customers to access source code, and get SDKs, etc that help them build products. They are targetting the mindset of traditional proprietary software development, offering the only perceived benefits of Open Source software without the "burden" of the GPL. It will probably work, to a fairly large extent. However, it could set adoption of Free Software back some - if people perceive that they are getting all of the benefits of Open Source software without any of the responsibilities, they'll jump all over it. Ultimately though, people will realize that there is no free lunch. Freedom is worth the responsibility.

Microsoft is (intelligently) pre-emptively attacking Free Software. A number of countries are adopting policies that requires the use of Free Software. Losing the government as a client would probably be a pretty big blow. Also, if ever any legislation were adopted that required a free software license on publicly-funded work, that could hurt companies that want nothing to do with Free Software. They were subtler this time, and didn't claim that Free Software was un-American. But this time they tried to take a common method of attack and claimed that without profits from software sales, there would be no more innovation. Except that Microsoft itself is trying to position itself as a services provider.

What is interesting to consider is the attack of the various business models that Free Software companies use. The speech compares them to dot-com business models with no hope of ever making any money. I see it slightly differently. Right now is a bad time to be a small company, and so people are overly critical of companies that aren't immediately profitable. But sometimes, it isn't possible to be profitable right away. Had it not been for IBM, Microsoft certainly wouldn't have been very profitable for a long while. Why? Because there was only a small market to serve, and Microsoft needed to work to create the market. That is what is happening now. Companies like Red Hat, Ximian, and Eazel (among others) are all trying to build new markets to compete in. That takes some time, and long-term thinking on the part of investors. But, it seems like a worthwhile proposition. Right now, those companies are spending their money on exactly what Microsoft claims they don't do - R&D. Developing products as a platform to provide services. A model that Microsoft itself validates with .NET. So, it is a clever way for them to belittle potential competitors for doing exactly what they are trying to do themselves.

The rest of what the speech brings up is just falsehood. Stuff about how Free Software can't work with standards, and forking will ruin everyone's lives. Except it doesn't note that forking is fairly rare, and most of the Internet's infrastructure, which is by far and away the most successful instance of using open standards for interoperability, is built on Free Software. But, I can understand why they seek to try this line of reasoning - they want to keep people away from Free Software. Otherwise, they may eventually be forced by the market to go the Free Software route themselves.

Property, posted 4 May 2001 at 00:00 UTC by Mulad » (Apprentice)

I think that Microsoft is missing the whole point here. They keep talking incessantly about Intellectual Property, as if everyone that produces information wants to own that information. The U.S. Government produces reams of public domain data each day -- everything from weather data to complex studies. Even the CIA produces the World Factbook. Certainly, the government has a different role than most organizations -- they're supposed to be around in order to protect citizens from each other and from the actions of other nations. The government gathers information in order to do that as well as possible.

This sort of stuff generally goes toward the common good. Many individuals like to contribute to that. People volunteer, work for charitable organizations, and take other actions to try and make our society better.

Microsoft and many other large corporations seem to be in a mode of `ultracapitalism,' where their entire goal is to gain more capital. The only contributions they want to be involved with are the contributions from others that put money in their pocketbooks.

It seems that Microsoft is not only attacking Free Software, they are also attacking the idea of volunteerism, the role of government, and society itself.

Of course, I did vote for Ralph Nader, so maybe I'm biased...

Spread the Word: Patch Rejected, posted 4 May 2001 at 00:00 UTC by exa » (Master)

I think as one post on slashdot indicated this propoganda shows how dearly MS is in need to evade free software (or open source if you'd prefer the term). It *is* propoganda, because I think every free software developer here will be able to recognize that the article deviates intentionally from the truth, distorting the facts to tune the audience to a new state of mind that will benefit the greedy corporation. You may as well call it FUD.

This is still the bazaar versus the cathedral. MS tries very hard to maintain its monopoly by whatever means available to them. They have now identified their enemy: source that they cannot adapt in their products without opening the source. In other words "free software".

They are associating free software with businesses based on free software and stupid "freebie" .com companies to confuse the reader, presumably managers who are not always familiar with these issues. They are _pretending_ to support an intellectual commons, yet *denying* the very thing that is the strongest supporter of the intellectual commons as Lawrence Lessig put very well in 'Code' : free software movement.

They would like to harness the benefits of open source development without adhering to open source licenses: distributed bug reporting and fixing, large scale peer review, folding of innovations from different sources in software where needed, etc. How clever! Note that this article also supports "copyrights, patents or trade secrets"; surely a software patent is a monopoly's best friend to prevent free software developers from employing the often trivial or published results in their code.

Now about Microsoft's version of the history of the Internet.

MUNDIE: Phase 1: In the early 90s it was all about static information.

Yes, static information like USENET for example!? Most of the protocols, their implementations and important systems software were already written by then. Which were done in the true spirit of the Internet that crowned openness and freedom. And they are regarded as being all about "static information"? This phase may be the least interesting from the viewpoint of the vision-free casual .com manager, but it's the most interesting one for the content of the article since it is about source code. If you don't study how this "phase" was accomplished, then you will never conceive the nature of Internet's code evolution.

MUNDIE: Phase 2: The late 90s saw the birth of the online transaction and the promise of Internet-based business models.

The fact that you can do commerce over the Internet. Which was again made possible by the co-operation of many entities that wanted to enable secure transactions.

MUNDIE: Phase 3 is what is being worked on now. It's all about connecting the currently separate complex systems of information and transactions and bringing that power to the individual in a readily accessible format on a variety of devices. **snapped propoganda here** heavy investment in research and development is going to be required in order for businesses and individuals to see the benefits of phase 3. The technology industry has to prove its commitment to privacy and security in order to encourage user acceptance of the technologies. ** propoganda goes on**

So, although bulk of the Internet was achieved by means other than "Commercial Software Model", this last phase which is the realization of .NET to lock *every* helpless poor computer user to their ugly mess of code needs it. By enslaving them even more securely; making their everyday applications depend on some monthly subscription. And I think he is very correct in saying that this will require a monopoly and its community of "dependents" and NDA signers! For generally useful software that will demand ridiculous payments is not in the agenda of free software! Surely, there is a lot of research and development put in MS products, for they have thousands of very high quality programmers. And of course, that innovation cannot be replicated or superseded by thousands of free software developers and thousands that are joining our ranks every year !? :) A play we have seen before.

This is the rational part of the whole article. Next is the least informed attack on free software ever witnessed. That Shared Source is a better thing than OSS because it leads to unhealthy forking, instability, hindering businesses, security risks and can force precious IP into public domain. Each one of these points is *totally* *wrong*; you may find refutations already on the Net and most of you will know immediately how misleading they are. The saints and advocates of free software: spread the word how untrue these sayings are.

As this were not sufficient, the article concludes with MS's commitment to an intellectual commons by their contributions to public standards. (to follow up from where I left at the beginning of the post) Nevertheless, code itself, that runs these machines and the Internet *cannot* be part of the intellectual commons according to Mundie. Tax-paid universities and government institutions should better contribute to the MS code base rather than the intellectual commons, don't you think?

Fortunately, free software is already here and the more that they speak of us the stronger we get.

Thanks for your patch to free software licenses, but I believe that will be ultimately rejected.

propoganda -> propaganda, posted 4 May 2001 at 00:41 UTC by exa » (Master)

not on a good spelling day. :)

free software vs. "Shared Source", posted 4 May 2001 at 00:52 UTC by mslicker » (Journeyer)

I'm a free software person myself, and I can probably guess most people here are too. The FSF and the GPL both promote the idea of community, in the true sense of the word. That is, the code base is commonly owned, and what benifits one benifits all.

To subscribe to the idea of "Shared Source", at least in the comunity sense, you have to believe that what is good for Microsoft is good for all.

I don't really care for arguments about business models. I don't think it's anyones responsibility to make a particular business model survive. If free software threatens selling software in the traditional sense, or in the .NET sense, it could be argued that these were never legitimate business models to begin with.

BSD Networking Code in Windows, posted 4 May 2001 at 01:03 UTC by Mulad » (Apprentice)

I forgot about this, but it's kind of funny. Microsoft has included open source software in Windows for a while -- networking code from BSD. Of course, that was under the BSD license, not the GNU GPL. An Anonymous Coward at Slashdot shows how to see it.

Info at Slashdot, posted 4 May 2001 at 23:45 UTC by dancer » (Journeyer)

That's actually what I posted in my diary here on Advogato, after getting fed up with EB's no-linux policy. Seems like I got copied very quickly...and without credit, of course. :)

Should I slap a license on my diary entries?

the road ahead, posted 7 May 2001 at 13:01 UTC by mbp » (Master)

Attributed to Ghandi:

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you[*], then you win.

([*] you are here)

And the plot thickens, posted 9 May 2001 at 17:36 UTC by cmacd » (Journeyer)

'clarity of Intellectual Property Ownership' and 'Predictability of the Development Process'.

That is the promise that MS is making on their new Windows appliance server product. It is basicaly sold in the form of a pre-installed Server Appliance with a crippled version of Win2K. All the directroy stuff has been removed, so that the appliance is "Just" a web server. They also make the usual claims about TCO, and ease of setup.

One of the pages that the article eventualy links to at MS also has a rallying cry to MS integrators to sell this as a subsitute for a Linux Web server, and contains an e-mail address to report those that are not persuaded. The article is at Linux Today

The thing I found most ironic..., posted 9 May 2001 at 23:29 UTC by argent » (Master)

I read a story once about a brilliant Marxist economist who had come up with a wonderful new mechanism to provide feedback to factories and other sources of production. What he'd come up with was, basically, the market. The problem was, he couldn't figure out how to benefit from the advantages of the improved information flow without letting people benefit "unfairly" from their own work.

Now I don't know if this story is true or not. It doesn't matter if it is, because Microsoft is *making* it true. Microsoft is in the position of this Marxist professor.

Microsoft's .NET sounds like the same sort of thing. People are involved in open source projects because they benefit from them, because their changes get back into common use quickly and efficiently. Open source *is* the market applied to ideas, with the tokens representing value and the rewards being one and the same. Attempts to benefit from community development while denying the developers in that community the rights to control their intellectual property are, basically, doomed. Doesn't matter if they're "shared source" or "community source" or any other tool less powerful than ... at least ... the BSD license.

Which, as noted, Microsoft has themselves benefitted from.

Who benefits ? , posted 10 May 2001 at 22:37 UTC by ask » (Master)

The rest of us benefits too from Microsoft using BSD tools in their OS products.

When Microsoft uses the BSD ftp client it's one less broken ftp client we'd have to deal with, if they used the BSD tcp/ip stack, it would have been one less broken tcp/ip stack to deal with and so on.

If Microsoft benefits from it too, then that's just fine. I don't care. That thing by itself doesn't cost me anything, it only improves the overall computing environment I have to work in. And that benefits me.

- ask

Read Maddog's response, posted 13 May 2001 at 06:52 UTC by raph » (Master)

Maddog Hall's response kicks ass.

Reply at, posted 28 May 2001 at 13:02 UTC by bero » (Master)

They made the mistake of not registering this domain. ;) My response is there.

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