Mono, the Open Source .NET project created and led by Ximian, is changing the license that comes with the formerly GPLed class libraries.
An announcement released today by Ximian states that because of increasing
corporate participation in the Mono project, the libraries will be
developed under the less restrictive X11 license, also known variously as the X or MIT license, which allows anyone who
obtains a copy of the software to modify it and redistribute it under any
license, including proprietary ones.
This is good, Ximian says, because it encourages companies like Intel to continue contributing
to Mono without any fear of having to release their own proprietary code if it
is linked with the Mono class libraries. "This makes the libraries usable by
anyone," says Ximian co-founder and CTO Miguel de Icaza. And the libraries are
important; as the Mono Web site states, "the sooner they are done, the sooner we
can start using this platform to create new and exciting applications."
Even Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation and author of the GPL agrees, for the most part.
"It is a good idea to use a license more lax than the
GPL for the class libraries," Stallman says. "There are strategic reasons why it is advantageous, for
the long-term overall progress towards Free Software, to make it possible to use
free C# class libraries for any program that could run with Microsoft's C# class
Stallman believes that the Lesser GPL would have been a better choice for the
libraries, because "using the X11 license makes a major unnecessary concession:
It allows non-free versions of the libraries themselves." He says that using the
LGPL would allow linking to non-free programs, but would preserve the free
status of the library itself.
"This issue doesn't particularly rock the Free Software community's world," says
Karsten Self, a systems administration and programmer who also co-founded the
Gestalt System, an Open Source data analysis tool. "I
think it's a potentially very powerfully positive development for the
Ximian Mono project tactically in taking on Microsoft's .NET, and may be
the precipitating event in stealing initiative from Microsoft on .NET."
.NET is Microsoft's XML Web services platform. It promises to "allow
applications to communicate and share data over the Internet, regardless of
operating system, device, or programming language," according to the .NET site.
The technologies developed by Microsoft in conjunction with .NET, including
the C# programming language and the Common Language Infrastructure,
have been standardized and are freely available from the ECMA, a European association for standardizing
information and communication systems.
DotGNU is another project
taking advantage of the open
framework of .NET to develop Free Software alternatives to the Microsoft
initiative. Originally, the Free Software Foundation heralded both DotGNU and
Mono as Free Software projects, but Stallman now says that Ximian has "parted
ways" with the movement.