Microsoft's continued misuse of the term "open source"

B Galliart bgallia at
Sat Feb 2 04:54:12 UTC 2008

The following issue that I raising December continues to be an issue today:

On Microsoft's Open Source: Learning web page [1] is a link titled
"Advancing AIDS Vaccine Research Through Open Source Approaches."  The
PDF document titled "Open Source at Microsoft: Advancing AIDS vaccine
research through open source approaches" [2] discusses the PhyloD and
other tools that make up the Microsoft Computational Biology Tools
(MSCompBio for short) on Codeplex.  The problem is that MSCompBio is
licensed under the MS-RLA [3], is not OSI approved and is not
submitted for approval.  If it was submitted, such terms as "You may
not use or distribute this Software or any derivative works in any
form for commercial purposes" would probably be found to violate OSD


Jamie Cannon of Microsoft excused the use of a non-open source license
with the claim the license restrictions are "considered standard in
fields of research or academia."  Yet, Microsoft's own article seem to
counterdict this excuse with the statement "Open source is very common
in biomedicine."  In fact, one of the best advocates for MSCompBio
being made available under an open source license is Microsoft's own
document.  And still it remains under a restrictive license that does
not honor the open source defination.

However, Jamie Cannon did provide some glimmer of hope when stating
back in December that "there is a wave of updates for in
January to address these types of concerns."  He also ended with "the
web team is on break until January, but we'll take a look at that
article as soon as everyone is back."

January 2008 is now behind us and in my view the glimmer of hope has
disappeared into the void.  The web team is back from break but the
wave of updates have yet to take place.  Even the specific example I
provided remain unchanged.  The PDF declairing MSCompBio to be open
source remains on the web site and the license given for the Codeplex
project is still neither an OSI approved license or one that could
pass all of the criteria withen the open source definition.

Again, this is an on-going problem--I brought up the mislabeling of
the MSCompBio back in October.  When Sam Ramji of Microsoft responded
he provided the excuse that "[I should] realize that in a company of
>79,000 employees, this education will take time to distribute and
absorb. "  I do realize this and am glad to provide a great amount of
give when my regional sales representative makes a mistake regarding
their understanding of open source.  But at the same time, I expect
Port 25 and to be representative of the best
that Microsoft interoperates with open source as part of a community.
Instead, it is clear that these websites are being maintained in a
fashion to illustrate how much Microsoft's masses can continue dilute
the definition of open source with it's own self-proclaimed so-called
"open source" offerings like MSCompBio.

To some degree, it appears that is similar to
Han Christian Andersen's "The Emperor's New Clothes" where Microsoft
has been lead to believe it can show off a new website that shows off
how well they can work with the open source community.  Instead, MS'
>79,000 employees are permitted to swindle MS into putting up a
website that attacks core concepts of open source by fraudently
claiming that things are open source works when they aren't.  But
while it takes only a mere child to have notified the emperor in the
story of his mistake, MS continues to parade it's attack on OSD for

Bill Hilf has asked the community to look at what Microsoft is doing
*now* instead of the past.  There is good reason to accept this
request as Microsoft's resources could greatly help the community's
effort.  But what I have seen by honoring Bill Hilf's request is the
opposite.  Microsoft accepted that the community is a bazaar briefly
enough to get their two licenses approved.  The website is a cathedral style self-declaration
on what they choose to call open source and ignores the definition
given by the community.  Even Microsoft's best attempts to document
how they interoperate with the open source community end up being an
example of how they are incompetent in remaining consistent with OSD.
And even when the issue is brought to their attention they can only
provide excuses and lies.

I believe this problem goes to the heart of the OSI.  If the OSI is
formed to help educate about OSD then Microsoft's method of PR that is
inconsistent with that education is a hindrance.  The point in
claiming an issue will be resolved in January and then leave the issue
still standing has the effect of further diluting meaningful education
by promoting a misconception.  Regardless of if this act was done
purposely or just gross incompetence does not change the end result.

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