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Open Source on .NET: Ignored and Embraced

On Tuesday I wrote about a conversation I had with Shaun Walker, founder of the popular open source DotNetNuke Web application framework for .NET. I wrote about Shaun's experience founding DotNetNuke and what it's like to be an open source developer working under .NET.

Based on some of the comments to this entry, I think people might be misreading the context of the interview. As is clear from the original post, Walker has enjoyed outstanding access and guidance from Microsoft -- specifically through the Developer Division (DevDiv) under Scott Guthrie. In fact, it was Guthrie himself who hooked Walker's team up with key people in Redmond.

When Walker said his team was being ignored, he was speaking specifically of other groups in Microsoft -- among these being the open source group led by Sam Ramji. Walker said Ramji's group seems most interested in luring non-.NET (read: Linux)-based open source developers and projects over to the Microsoft platform. Native .NET developers -- including DotNetNuke -- just aren't on Ramji's radar.

And that, Walker thinks, is a shame. DotNetNuke has benefited hugely from the attention lavished on it by the DevDiv, but Walker believes there are scores of worthy, .NET-based projects that are just not getting the support they need.

"We're hoping that over time that attitude will change and they will provide more support for native open source application vendors," Walker told me.

Walker isn't alone in this sentiment. Back in April, Coding Horror blogger Jeff Atwood spoke at length about his frustrations with how Microsoft treats open source developers. He went so far as to say that "open source projects are treated as second-class citizens in the Microsoft ecosystem."

Walker, for his part, believes Microsoft is heading in the right direction. "I do think it is going to improve over time. Like anything that is immature, it does take some time to figure out how to coexist peacefully and collaborate successfully," he said.

Do you think Microsoft is doing enough for native .NET open source developers? What would you like to see Microsoft do to improve its efforts to serve this group? E-mail me at

Posted by Michael Desmond on 07/24/2008 at 1:15 PM

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