Tuesday, July 31, 2007

New Microsoft "Open Source" licenses reveal a company on the defensive

PJ of Groklaw believes Microsoft is (as usual) up to no good by pushing two licenses for OSI approval. I don't trust Microsoft any more than she does, but I don't share her seeming paranoia that every move the company makes is a deviously cunning ploy to destroy its enemies. Many of its recent moves, I believe, are death throes, nothing more than a pathetic and desperate attempt to simply survive.

What I think is behind Microsoft's current desperation is the release of the GNU General Public License version 3. Mind you, GPLv3 is the most discussed and collaboratively developed software license in history. It has an impeccable set of guiding principles, accommodation of the widest variety of views across the spectrum and (not least) watertight legalese that gives it teeth in a court of law.

Regrettably, Linus Torvalds isn't the sharpest knife in the Open Source drawer at the moment, but plenty of others see the tremendous advantages of GPLv3 and are releasing serious software under this license. Samba, OpenSolaris and SugarCRM are just the initial trickle. The flood is coming. Already, the GPL (version 2) is the most popular FOSS license, accounting for about 62% of all software on SourceForge. The GPLv3, being more modern and having carried along all interested parties in its drafting, will surely be more popular.

It will also put a stop to Microsoft's patent shell game, the last refuge of those unable to compete. Checkmate.

That's why these two licenses are being trotted out by the monopolist now. Any license at all will do, as long as it's not the GPLv3. I'm not a lawyer, but I'm betting that even if the licenses turn out to have impeccable Open Source credentials from OSI's point of view, they will turn out to be incompatible with GPLv3.

Because that's what these licenses are being rushed out to do - slow down the adoption of GPLv3.

Fat chance. The GPL version 3 is a juggernaut. And Microsoft is roadkill.