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Shared Source vs. Open Source: Panel Discussion

08/09/2001

Part 1: The Debate

Tim:
Sounds like some of Michael's speech was maybe a treaty with the free software people. [laughter]

Anyway, there probably are divisions within Microsoft just as there are divisions within our community. It's kind of interesting, because the diversity of opinions often leads not to division but to strength, and I think we're going to demonstrate that strength as we hear from a number of people who are prominent in our community and are allied under the banner of the core principles of open source, but who do have different takes on how it works and what's important about it.

Anyway, I'd like to invite up the rest of our panel. Michael and Craig, you may want to come back up and sit down.

I have here with us Brian Behlendorf, who's one of the cofounders of the Apache Project. [applause] I'll just start down at the far end, then.

Clay Shirky is a partner at an incubator called the Accelerator Group. He's also a well-known commentator on coming technologies, and he's recently done some very interesting thinking about some of Microsoft's new technologies, in particular Hailstorm. That's why he's here to talk to us. [applause]

Dave Stutz is, I believe, now the program manager for the shared source implementation of the common language run time and so forth. Is that the appropriate designation?

Dave:
Sure. It'll work.

Tim:
Dave is —

Dave:
— Craig's Mini-Me .

Tim:
Yeah, I was going to say, I don't know, maybe something like, if you had the hat [reference to the red hats on heads all through the room], I would say, "Mini-Me. Do not chew on your hat." [laughter]

Next in line is Mitchell Baker, who's known as the Chief Lizard Wrangler at Mozilla.org. Mitchell is also the person who wrote the Mozilla license, so she's done a lot of thinking about free software and open source licenses and the needs of corporations. [applause]

We have with us Ron Johnson, who's an attorney at Arnold & Porter and the chair of the 22nd Annual Computer and Internet Law Institute.

And obviously you know Craig, and I already introduced Brian.

So, Craig, I don't know if you wanted to respond at all to any of Michael's comments [laughter], or whether you want to hear from a few other people before we get there.

Craig:
I'll just offer one general thought, which is, you know, in some sense it's easy to poke fun or think you know what is the look-in from the outside and to be at Microsoft.

We're a company now of 50,000 people, and among any community of 50,000 people, particularly fairly smart people, you're going to have a lot of people who think carefully about a lot of issues, and feel passionately as you do about a lot of issues. So I don't think we're embarrassed at all to find that people would come forward at Microsoft and ask questions or ask whether we do the right thing or not.

What I can tell you is that there is a single-purpose focus in the management of the company. The leadership of the company is not uncertain about what we're doing. We welcome people asking questions in the company, but ultimately we recognize our job is to make decisions and provide consistent leadership. And so if people don't like what the company wants to do, there's no indentured servitude. You know, they're free to go do something else. But the company is clear about what it will do. And I can just tell you that as a member of a management committee of the company, and while listening to Michael's comments that many of the ways he characterizes what he thinks may go on inside the company in terms of a civil war or anything, frankly [it] just doesn't exist. It may be fine to ruminate about what you think could exist or does exist. I can tell you quite specifically, there's no civil war at the management level and, to me, no observable civil war among the rank and file either. So that's one thought I'd leave with you today.

Panel members from the debate
Left to right: Clay Shirky, Michael Tiemann, David Stutz, Mitchell Baker, Ronald Johnston, Craig Mundie, Brian Behlendorf.

Tim:
So, Brian, you're obviously someone who has, you know, come up from the GPL side of the house but from the university style of license regime. Clearly you have done a lot of thinking about what licenses you would choose and why. Do you have any thoughts on that, or any things you'd like to talk to Craig about with regard to the BSD orientation.... [laughter]

Brian:
Sure. [more laughter] You don't want to call on anybody else, do you? [laughter]

One of the slides in [Craig Mundie's] presentation was actually a very useful slide. It showed that there is a relationship — a set of relationships — between the public research through universities, corporations, users, and government. I think what we've seen is that it's not one-directional like that. What we've seen is that it's actually bi-directional in all those things — in fact, bi-directional across universities and consumers and government and business and all those directions.

And so while Apache, for example, is under a BSD-style license, it was very important while we were building the Apache community that we not only have other corporations use it and adopt it into their commercial products, but also that we communicate to those companies the need to reinvest back, the need to build Apache itself as a strong force as they build up the momentum behind it. And to us, even though the obligation isn't there to share their code back, the companies that are participating in the Apache Software Foundation and even more broadly, within the BSD communities, understand the need to reinvest, to build it back up. And that's one thing that I think may be missing in some of this debate: the creation of licenses, the creation of regimes that really are bi-directional, that really put all the participants at an equal level.

I totally welcome Microsoft exploring shared source licenses. I think for proprietary software, I'd much rather have the code to it than not have the code to it. I think we're going to see a big difference in the amount of resources that people will put in to a shared source license regime versus one that is an open source license regime. So it's all a matter of experimentation. I'm all for experimenting with different licenses. I think history has shown that open source is a more efficient way to go in certain circumstances. At the same time, there are 10 million Microsoft developers out there who might have a different opinion. I think it's worth finding out.

Shared Source vs. Open Source Related Links

Debate and Panel Discussion

Technetcast of the debateWith audio

Part 1: The Debate

OSCON Conference Coverage

Comment on this articleFor the bulk of the panel discussion, Dave Stutz and Craig Mundie defended Microsoft's business position to the other panelists. Do you think this conversation helped bridge the gap between open source and Microsoft?
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Craig:
One thought on that. I agree with you that it is bi-directional, and in a way, when you look at all the different licensing regimes, you're correct to point out that there are many different ways to give back. In a sense, giving the code back is just one way. You know giving taxes to the government to give back is essentially another institutionalized way.

Tim:
So how much does Microsoft pay in taxes? [laughter]

Craig:

It's a lot. I don't know the exact number this year, but it's billions. One of the things that we've been fascinated by, and I guess you could say it's some benchmark of this, [is that] this week, as I kind of predicted in May, we actually came out with this Windows CE source license. I guess we actually posted it three, maybe four days ago. And the first three days, ten thousand people downloaded the entire source tree. And we had had a kit that we had offered to people who just wanted to use it for commercial purposes and we had sold about four hundred of those in the last year. I guess only time will tell whether people will decide that they really want to make an investment or whether they're just curious. But we were quite happy to see that when we offered it for non-commercial use — really targeting the academic environment, primarily — that ten thousand people in the first three days decided to take it and take a look at it. So we're enthused with that kind of reaction, and it is, you know, some way of giving back. You know, we give back financially, we give back in the standards world, as Michael said, with XML and other things. I mean, well before XML, we've been a big participant in the process of standardization, and so I think we will continue to seek ways to share and give back.

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