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2/2/2009
03:20 PM
Charles Babcock
Charles Babcock
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Microsoft Open Source Code Is Part Of Google's Chrome

Much of the reader feedback to "Why Windows Must Go Open Source" is saying, "No way." But part of my hypothesis is the fact that Microsoft as a developer culture is much less averse to such a move than Microsoft as a business culture. Consider the Windows Template Library, code that's now part of Google's browser, Chrome.

Much of the reader feedback to "Why Windows Must Go Open Source" is saying, "No way." But part of my hypothesis is the fact that Microsoft as a developer culture is much less averse to such a move than Microsoft as a business culture. Consider the Windows Template Library, code that's now part of Google's browser, Chrome.Microsoft's Windows Template Library is a light version of Windows Foundation Classes, which provide an efficient way for calling user interface services out of the Windows API set. A browser needs to make use of certain Windows functions for its own operations to succeed as a window on the Web. WTL makes those services available.

Scott Hanselman's blog, The Weekly Source Code, points out that WTL was made open source code in 2004. It became open source under the Microsoft Public License, which was later sanctioned by the Open Source Initiative as a legitimate open source license. Scott is a Microsoft programmer in Portland, Ore., and he recounted recently an e-mail conversation with Pranish Kumar, formerly of the Visual C++ team at Microsoft, on how WTL went open source.

Pranish wrote: "[WTL] was one of the first if not the first OSS things from Microsoft and it was a tough sell. There was a meeting with some bosses where we were presenting 3 potential OSS items. I guess it was the first 'real OSS' with joint MS/Community involvement as opposed to just us posting something externally. WTL was the only one that got approved."

Hanselman describes the Microsoft Public License as one that hands the open source to a developer with the stipulation, "Have fun and don't call if there's trouble." In other words, it's "a very relaxed" license, the kind that open source developers like.

WTL went on to become a community-supported project on SourceForge -- in 2004, or about 28 years ago in Internet time, Hanselman estimates. A key piece of Microsoft code went on to be used by a wider body of developers. And who's to say this process won't be repeated many times until one day…

But I've already elaborated my position. I leave the rest of the debate up to those inside and outside of Microsoft who are in a position to make it happen.

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