Microsoft yesterday announced that it’s allowing developers to download the .NET Framework code, which caused some confusion that the move was open source. But though the software giant is letting developers see the code (which, as I understand it, is essentially what Windows is made of and otherwise looks totally incomprehensible to a non-programmer), actually modifying and distributing the code remains strictly verboten. Webware clears things up:
The source code will be released under Microsoft’s Reference License. This means that you can only use the source as a reference for debugging, maintaining, or enhancing your applications. You cannot modify or distribute the code for any purpose. This happens to be the most restricted shared source license that Microsoft has. This announcement confirms that .Net is going to be shared source, not to be confused with open source.
Despite this increased transparency from Microsoft, developers that look at the .NET Framework will have to be extra diligent about not accidentally writing code that’s too similar, perhaps causing them to stay away altogether. Mary Jo Foley notes:
While Microsoft isn’t requiring developers to sign any non-disclosure agreements to view the .Net source code, I’m sure anyone working on an open-source project would need to think twice about looking at Microsoft’s code in order to avoid potential IP conflicts.