Microsoft opens up its Open Specification Promise

Microsoft has opened up its Open Specification Promise to make it meaningful and usable to a wider group of people.

Steve Ballmer may not have anything better to say than "blah" and "Google" in his analyst meetings, but his open-source group came up with a doozy today.

The flawed Open Specification Promise (OSP) just became whole. Or close to it. Microsoft has opened up its Open Specification Promise to make it meaningful and usable to a wider group of people. Even Groklaw, which sets a high (and generally fair) bar for Microsoft is impressed.

Microsoft's OSP has been controversial in part because it's basic covenant not to sue developers was crippled by its application only to noncommercial developers, as well as other ambiguities that have been resolved. With this update to the OSP, this restriction is gone, as Sam Ramji, Director of Microsoft's Open Source Software Lab, confirmed:

Microsoft is putting a wide range of protocols that were formerly in the Communications Protocol Program under the Open Specification Promise (OSP). This guarantees their freedom from any patent claims from Microsoft now or in the future, and includes both Microsoft-developed and industry-developed protocols.

We have established a clarification to the OSP that guarantees developer rights to build software of any kind and for any purpose using these specifications, including commercial use.

This is very cool. It's also cool that Microsoft accompanied this announcement with a $100,000 pledge to the Apache Software Foundation. Andy Oliver of the Open Source Initiative was instrumental in helping Microsoft work toward both conclusions.

I'm really proud of Sam, Robert Duffner, and the others at Microsoft who made this happen. Given Microsoft's importance to the software community, this OSP commitment shouldn't be understated.

Yes, it's Microsoft. Yes, it's a big company with an agenda that can conflict with the open-source community's, and sometimes sharply. But it's also a company filled with some very good people interested in doing very good things.

Like this. Well done.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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