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Is Microsoft Getting Serious About Open Source? Exploring the CodePlex Foundation

written by: •edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 11/4/2009

This article discusses the newly formed CodePlex Foundation sponsored by Microsoft. What is the foundation’s mission? What are others in the industry saying? Read on to find out.

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    The Codeplex Foundation and closely related site may sound like just another – a place where the Open Source community can upload programs, share source code and collaborate with others in the community. So why is Microsoft bothering with such an activity and why are they setting up a foundation (Microsoft is the primary sponsor of the Codeplex Foundation)?

    Their mission makes it clear they are trying to be different. They want to create a community that represents and engages commercial software developers as well as the open source community. In a presentation available on the CodePlex Foundation website on why Codeplex exists, Codeplex president Sam Ramji explains that commercial software developers tend not to participate in open source projects due to some factors including differences in developmental methodologies, cultural differences, licensing and copyright perspectives. was actually started before the Foundation. was started in June of 2006 as a place that focused on features that commercial developers would find attractive when contributing to open source projects. Today, hosts over 10,000 projects. is like the brawn – hosting and acting as the day to day interface to the community. The Codeplex Foundation was formed on September 10, 2009.

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    CodeplexLogo There is some criticism coming from the Free Software Foundation’s president Richard Stallman. In his article titled “Lest CodePlex perplex”, Stallman makes clear his lack of trust that the Foundation will contribute to free software. His claim (and I tend to agree with him) is that the CodePlex foundation is going to further Microsoft’s goals by encouraging commercial companies to release free software or add-ons for proprietary systems and software. Where the Free Software Foundation thinks all software should be free (as in “freedom of speech”), Stallman believes Microsoft will only benefit if more developers develop free software for Microsoft’s proprietary operating system and applications.

    Another set of criticism came up with Andy Updegrove’s article “The CodePlex Foundation: First Impressions (and Recommendations)” which discusses the way the Foundation was set up – from the composition of its board to the bylaws. Udegrove doesn’t come out and say Microsoft has nefarious goals behind the Codeplex Foundation, but he does have some serious concerns about the way the organization is set up – the board of directors is composed of mostly current or former Microsoft Employees. With this and the fact Microsoft is the sole “sponsor” of the Foundation (having donated $1million in funds to start the Foundation), it sure looks like the Foundation is Microsoft’s puppet. Granted, the board of directors is currently looking for permanent members and Mr. Updegrove speculates that Microsoft wasn’t quite ready to announce the Foundation when it did, but it does cause you to question just how much Microsoft is trying to support truly “open” software.

    In practical terms – if you are a Microsoft user and CodePlex was created to engage more commercial developers to develop Open software for Microsoft systems, what’s the problem in that?