Microsoft's Open Source Faux Pas
File this under: Things that make you say "Oops."
Microsoft has been hosting on its CodePlex shared source site a project called
Sandcastle, which is an XML documentation compiler for managed class libraries.
The project was published under the Microsoft Permissive License (Ms-PL) and
promoted as an open source project. Ms-PL is one of two Microsoft license programs
to earn the approval of the Open Source Initiative (OSI).
There was just one problem: Sandcastle wasn't
open source at all. The team producing the project at Microsoft had failed
to publish and share the project source code, which violates the OSI's terms
After a flurry of complaints, Microsoft open source guru Sam Ramji quickly
published a public apology on the Port 25 blog page and announced that Sandcastle
was being removed from the CodePlex site. You can read his entry here.
Ramji said Sandcastle might return to CodePlex once the team commits to releasing
the source code, but no decision has been made yet.
The fix to Microsoft's open source faux pas creates another problem: Developers
were relying on Sandcastle to produce code documentation. Numerous responses
to Ramji's blog post indicate real frustration over having the documentation
tool summarily yanked out from under their projects. One comment from poster
JohnC sums up the issue nicely:
"A lot of people rely on Sandcastle. I use it for my business and
would gladly pay for it if it was commercial software and reasonably priced.
I have no beef with open source particularly, but I couldn't care less
about having the source code for a utility program that I use in my business.
This is a bit draconian and just the sort of bizarre, unthinking and most
importantly unaccountable exploit that continues to cement the bad reputation
of open source projects in my mind and others.
Surely some other place could have been found in a timely manner to host
the binaries before removing it from CodePlex. Yanking widely used and important
software without warning is not something a respectable for-profit company
*accountable* to its customers could ever afford to do."
What do you think of Microsoft's decision to yank Sandcastle? Is Microsoft
doing that right thing in moving to comply right away, or is it being short-sighted
by hurting customers who value the Sandcastle code? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Michael Desmond on 06/12/2008 at 1:15 PM