Microsoft opening up .Net Framework libraries

By releasing the libraries under its Reference License and Shared Source Initiative, Microsoft has made the .Net source code viewable but unmodifiable

Opening up to developers, Microsoft is releasing its .Net Framework libraries under the Microsoft Reference License, which allows viewing of source code but not modification or redistribution, the company said on Wednesday.

The release gives developers the opportunity to better understand the inner workings of the framework's source code, Microsoft said. Microsoft's efforts fall under the company's Shared Source initiative, which allows for sharing of source code; Shared Source has been viewed as Microsoft's answer to open source, in which users can view selected source code.

Also, Microsoft will introduce a capability in the upcoming Visual Studio 2008 developer tools package to allow .Net Framework developers to debug into .Net Framework source code.

"One of the things my team has been working to enable has been the ability for .Net developers to download and browse the source code of the .Net Framework libraries and to easily enable debugging support in them," said Microsoft's Scott Guthrie, general manager in the Microsoft Developer Division, in his blog.

"Today I'm excited to announce that we'll be providing this with the .Net 3.5 and Visual Studio 2008 release later this year," he said.

The initiative begins with offering source code with source file components for the following technologies:

  • Net Base Class Libraries (including System, System.IO, System.Collections, System.Configuration, System.Threading, System.Net, System.Security, System.Runtime, and System.Text).
  • ASP.Net (System.Web).
  • Windows Forms (System.Windows.Forms).
  • ADO.NET (System.Data).
  • XML (System.Xml).
  • Windows Presentation Foundation (System.Windows).
"We'll then be adding more libraries in the months ahead, including Windows Communication Foundation, Windows Workflow, and LINQ (Language Integrated Query)," Guthrie said.

"Having source code access and debugger integration of the .Net Framework libraries is going to be really valuable for .Net developers," Guthrie said. "Being able to step through and review the source should provide much better insight into how the .Net Framework libraries are implemented and in turn enable developers to build better applications and make even better use of them."

"You'll be able to download the .Net Framework source libraries via a standalone install (allowing you to use any text editor to browse it locally). We will also provide integrated debugging support of it within Visual Studio 2008," said Guthrie.

Microsoft's efforts were mostly applauded on Guthrie's blog.

"This is one of the coolest things I've ever seen Microsoft do," one commenter said. "Very, very awesome."

"I think this is a really positive step forward," said another commenter.

"I hope to see a fully open-source .Net Framework in [the] future. Today we have moved closer to that," one respondent said.

But an industry analyst said the move was a bit late.

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