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Microsoft beating Mozilla...in open-source licensing

Redmond may be losing market share to Mozilla in browsers, but its open-source license is gaining ground fast against Mozilla for some very good reasons.

Microsoft's Internet Explorer continues to hemorrhage market share to Mozilla's open-source Firefox browser. But Microsoft is set to surpass Mozilla in one area: adoption of its open-source Microsoft Public License (MS-PL), according to research from Black Duck Software.

The MS-PL is now used by 1.02 percent of open-source projects. This is impressive given that it was only approved by the Open Source Initiative some two years ago. The Mozilla Public License (MPL), by contrast, has been around for many more years and is used by 1.25 percent of open-source projects, ranking ninth in terms of popularity. MS-PL is 10th but is gaining fast.

It's a matter of coloring inside the CodePlex lines.

The MPL offers some benefits over its long-serving peers like the GNU General Public License (50.17 percent market share), but often the benefits are outweighed by the sheer momentum of the GPL. Whatever its deficiencies, the GPL is a relatively well-understood license.

For those developers looking to go "off-piste" with a different license, and particularly for those with a Microsoft inclination--as is the case with Microsoft open-source code hosting repository CodePlex--it's far easier to opt to do so with the MS-PL versus the MPL, the Eclipse Public License, or another license.

As CodePlex continues to gain in popularity, I expect we'll see the MS-PL push past MPL and potentially even past the MIT License, which currently ranks seventh at 3.79 percent share. When that happens, it will be a sign that Microsoft has truly arrived as an open-source player.

Of course, I suspect that Microsoft would rather beat Mozilla in browser market share than in license market share. But you can't have everything, now can you?

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.