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Microsoft Debuts Shared-Source Portal

CodePlex, which went into beta last month, is designed to allow developers to collaborate on extensions to Microsoft software.

Microsoft went live Tuesday with CodePlex, a shared-source portal that opened in beta form last month.

The move is the first step toward opening the site to all projects that users would like to host there. Tuesday's formal launch includes 35 projects, some seeded by Microsoft and about 20 initiated externally. The outside projects were selected from the more than 150 project requests that Microsoft received since CodePlex's unveiling, according to Jon Rosenberg, director of Microsoft's community source program.

Microsoft will add a handful of projects to CodePlex each week, until all projects eventually are posted after a quick check by CodePlex's organizers. "We want to scale the site up slowly and ensure that we have a really smooth ramp," Rosenberg said.

Early participants are enthusiastic about CodePlex and call it a major improvement on Microsoft's previous .Net community collaboration site, GotDotNet.

"[GotDotNet] used to be very poor but had gotten better over the last few years. But it still left something to be desired. It just wasn't very intuitive," said Michael Ruminer, principal consultant at Magenic Technologies, a Microsoft Gold partner based in Minneapolis.

Ruminer is leading a CodePlex project to build a source-code version tree browser for Team Foundation Server. The idea for the project predated CodePlex, but the shared-source portal's creation inspired Ruminer to begin working on the technology and recruit a development team. He aims to release the first version of the visual browser later this year, after Microsoft issues its first service pack for Team Foundation Server.

CodePlex has worked well so far in facilitating collaboration, Ruminer said. "It lacks maturity in some areas, but that will come. I love using it from within my Visual Studio IDE. It's an environment that's very familiar and comfortable," he said.

Though CodePlex succeeds GotDotNet, projects won't be pulled from other locations--including SourceForge, a popular open-source development site--and moved to CodePlex unless individual project coordinators decide to do so, according to Microsoft executives.

One shared-source project that won't be appearing on CodePlex is the CodePlex site itself. "Where can I get the source code to CodePlex?" was among the first questions participants asked, and it's the top item on CodePlex's FAQ.

The answer: It's not being released. Microsoft said CodePlex is tailored to run in its own data centers, and broadly sharing the source code for the portal wouldn't be useful to external users.

Still, CodePlex is a high-profile example of a portal site built on Microsoft's Team Foundation Server infrastructure, and if users push for a broader release of a blueprint for the site, Microsoft said it would consider it.

"We're definitely open to that conversation," said Bill Hilf, Microsoft's general manager of platform strategy.

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