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Microsoft licenses get open-source approval

Any program governed by the Microsoft Public License and the Microsoft Reciprocal License now may officially be called open-source software.

Two Microsoft licenses have been given official open-source status by the group that bestows it, the Open Source Initiative. So yes, cue the tire-screeching, glass-shattering noises now.

The OSI has been working to reduce license proliferation, but evidently thought the Microsoft licenses not only met the criteria of the open-source definition but also merited approval.

"The decision to approve was informed by the overwhelming (though not unanimous) consensus from the open-source community that these licenses satisfied the 10 criteria of the open-source definition, and should therefore be approved," the OSI said in a statement Friday. "In spite of recent negative interactions between Microsoft and the open-source community, the spirit of the dialog was constructive and we hope that carries forward to a constructive outcome as well."

The two licenses approved are the Microsoft Public License and the Microsoft Reciprocal License.

Microsoft, though it has plenty of unfavorable things to say about the free and open-source programming movement, extended its thanks to OSI in this situation.

"This is a significant milestone in the progression of Microsoft's open-source strategy and the company's ongoing commitment to participation in the open-source community to effectively meet the evolving needs of developers," the company said in a Tuesday statement.

Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer has called open-source software elements "un-American" and "a cancer." More recently, even after the company tried to begin a less confrontational chapter, Ballmer said Linux and other open-source software violates 235 Microsoft patents and that Red Hat customers should pay Microsoft for that patented technology.

At the same time, the company, which has long fostered tight relations with programmers, also has said it admires some elements of the open-source movement. And it's gradually moved to share some of its own proprietary source code, though often under look-but-don't-touch terms or with other restrictions that are anathema to the freedoms granted by open-source software.