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Microsoft to allow developers to access .Net reference libraries source code by end of 2007

Microsoft is opening up. Slowly.

So close, and yet so far away. Scott Guthrie, General Manager within the Microsoft Developer Division, announced on his blog that Microsoft will be releasing the source code for its .NET Framework libraries with the .NET 3.5 and Visual Studio 2008 release in late 2007.

This isn't open source as the Microsoft Reference License which will govern the code release is a "look but don't modify or distribute" license. Still, baby steps for Microsoft. Guthrie writes:

One of the things my team has been working to enable has been the ability for .NET developers to download and browse the source code of the .NET Framework libraries, and to easily enable debugging support in them.

Today I'm excited to announce that we'll be providing this with the .NET 3.5 and VS 2008 release later this year.

We'll begin by offering the source code (with source file comments included) for the .NET Base Class Libraries (System, System.IO, System.Collections, System.Configuration, System.Threading, System.Net, System.Security, System.Runtime, System.Text, etc), ASP.NET (System.Web), Windows Forms (System.Windows.Forms), ADO.NET (System.Data), XML (System.Xml), and WPF (System.Windows). We'll then be adding more libraries in the months ahead (including WCF, Workflow, and LINQ). The source code will be released under the Microsoft Reference License (MS-RL).

Again, it's not open source, but it it does demonstrate Microsoft's understanding that it needs to open up participation in its code releases in order to thrive in the 21st Century. Consumers continue to just want the software to work, but the intermediaries between vendors and consumers are developers, and developers want code.

I view this as a positive step for Microsoft.