By now, we’ve all read that Microsoft is releasing the .NET 3.5 source under the Microsoft Research License (i.e. look but don’t touch). I view this is but another step into the OSS swimming pool.

I’m willing to bet a shinny new Loonie that Microsoft will start allowing user contributions within the next year. And then we’ll see a Microsoft-led OSS project around the .NET runtime within the next 2 years. Microsoft will likely create a pseudo-GPL license (which isn’t the GPL) for this purpose. Obviously Microsoft will own the ‘official’ .NET distribution, but allowing user contributions first, and then offering the *allusion* of allowing multiple distributions, based on the original Microsoft code, is a natural progression.

I stress *allusion*, because it’s quite unlikely that we’ll see tens of .NET runtime distributions beyond the two we have today (i.e. the official MSFT distro & Mono). At most there’ll be 3 distros in the future. Microsoft will create a JCP-like committee to guide the .NET community, (following the lead from Sun in the Java world).

To me, this move is step 1 of 3 towards replicating what Sun has done with OpenJDK. Step 2 is allowing user contributions and step 3 would be launching opendotnet.org. When Microsoft gets to step 3, there will be the same allusion of “anyone can contribute and fork if they like”. But at the end of the day, there will be privileged distro from a single vendor, and that vendor gets to decide what goes into the distro. Few individual developers will waste their time trying to compete via an alternative distro in an unfair fight.

At least then, .NET will be truly open source and the masses will cheer, as they did with OpenJDK.

Somebody at Microsoft should register opendotnet.org soon….