Microsoft has clarified its stance on open-source software (OSS), saying it is not banning commercial OSS apps from the Microsoft Store.
Not attempt to profit from open-source or other software that is otherwise generally available for free, nor be priced irrationally high relative to the features and functionality provided by your product.
Needless to say, the new terms did not go over well with many developers. Despite the reputation Linux and OSS have for being entirely free, there are many commercial projects based on free and open-source software (FOSS), and there is no prohibition preventing a developer from charging for an open-source app. In addition, Microsoft’s rules would essentially make it impossible for FOSS to engage in charitable fundraising via the Microsoft Store.
After Twitter users pointed out the change of terms Giorgio Sardo, General Manager Apps, Partners, Store @ Microsoft, tweeted that Microsoft’s goal was not to stop the distribution of OSS, but merely to cut down on misleading listings.
Despite the clarification, some users and developers are taking a wait-and-see approach to make sure Microsoft properly details its stand.
Still others see a pattern in Microsoft’s behavior, one that is antithetical to FOSS. Bradley M. Kuhn, Policy Fellow & Hacker-in-Residence at the Software Freedom Conservancy highlights what many see as a concerted effort by Microsoft to undermine FOSS.
Kuhn provided the follow statement to WPN:
This is not the first time Microsoft has rolled out Draconian policies in their app store terms. In 2011, when they first launched the product (under the name “Windows Marketplace”), Microsoft banned an entire class of FOSS licenses, called the “copyleft” licenses (such as the General Public License, GPL). These copyleft licenses had been a target of attack by Microsoft for decades, and Microsoft many times and in many venues pushed the FOSS community to abandon copyleft licenses in favor of non-copyleft ones that allow companies to turn FOSS into proprietary software later. The community pushed back against Microsoft’s copyleft ban, and eventually Microsoft pulled back the term. Microsoft knew well that copyleft advocates would strongly object; they simply tried out their preferred Draconian policy to see if they could “get away with it”. When they couldn’t, they updated the policy and feigned magnanimity, saying they’d “listened” to the community.
Similarly here, they promulgated a policy they knew was antithetical to the FOSS community, are now publicly saying they’re “listening”. We expect they’ll roll out something slightly less onerous and claim they’ve “listened”. Microsoft literally claims they “love Open Source”, and we know well that they created an entire Open Source Program Office (OSPO), which hired many folks who understand well why policies like this are problematic. Did Microsoft even consult their own experts? If so, why didn’t these experts tell the Microsoft Store team these rules were antithetical to FOSS? (And, if these internal experts told the Microsoft Store team the full details and history of this issue, why did Microsoft ignore their own internal experts?
The fact is, Microsoft hasn’t changed their tune at all; they’re putting a friendly veneer on their long term strategy to coopt Open Source to their own proprietary ends.
Only time will tell what Microsoft’s intentions are, but the company obviously has a long way to go to gain the trust of a community it has long been seen as an enemy of.