[Correction 14/05/2008: Alex insisted that "All I can see is a single developer speculated that writing an IMAP handler in C# would be easier. That’s very much not what that blog post was saying; it was saying GNOME was contaminated via Evolution with a new Mono dependency for IMAP, which is totally wrong."]
“One Free Software Foundation-backed group–aptly called the End Software Patents Project–is using the [Bilski] case as a platform to argue that no form of software should ever qualify for a patent. Red Hat also argued that the “exclusionary objectives” of software patents conflict with the nature of the open-source system and open up coders to myriad legal hazards.”
Referring to an article that we mentioned here a few days ago, Slashdot has just picked up the modified headline “Microsoft ‘Shared Source’ Attempts to Hijack FOSS.” Is this news to anyone? Can Novell pretend that it’s unaware of the issue? If Microsoft gets its way, then ‘open source’ and software patents will no longer be seen as collisional. Why would you mind? Because GNOME continues to be contaminated with a clone of the shared-sourced .NET and this time it’s Evolution, the E-mail client. [Minor update: clarifications in this subsequent discussion]
As we warned before, Silverlight, OOXML, DRM and all sorts of other nasties might sooner or later accompany this harmful adoption of Microsoft technologies inside the core of GNU/Linux distributions. Glyn Moody shrewdly refers to such things as “poisoning” in his latest column.
Imagine, though, a day when open source programs run well on Windows. Given that the installed base of Windows is currently much larger than that for GNU/Linux, this means that many open source developers are likely to start paying more attention to Microsoft’s platform, even to the detriment of GNU/Linux versions. As a result, some coders will be more amenable to including “optimised” technologies like Silverlight in their Windows versions. And so it will begin: the gradual pollution of free software with proprietary elements and software patents.
If Microsoft’s old approach can be likened to Hamlet’s attempt to “take arms against a sea of troubles” – a futile effort – it’s new, more subtle, tactic might be characterised as poisoning that sea. As we know from real life, that’s all-too easy, and particularly hard to prevent, especially as it can occur very slowly and imperceptibly to begin with.
To prevent the poison building up to noxious levels, open source projects need to be extremely wary when responding to Microsoft’s chummy enquiries, or they may ultimately find themselves repeating Hamlet’s more famous quotation from the opening of the same speech.
What would GNOME’s spokesman say in his defense this time? That you can compile GNOME with the exclusion of Tomboy? Fine. That you could choose a different E-mail client? Fine. How much of GNOME would one have to castrate in order to keep it Microsoft-free and free of software patents that Microsoft granted Novell exclusive rights to? And as it gets harder and harder to do so, who would actually bother? As with most posts that cover this issue, backlash filled with rudeness is expected and since the information above seems factual, it’ll be safe to close this item and disable comments.
By the way, Sam Varghese published another scathing piece about Jeff Waugh, but it gets tedious and redundant. It seems very unproductive because it fails to address the real questions that are practical, as opposed to personal. Mono is coming out of the closet and there is hardly any point in denying it. GNOME is becoming a .NET-rich environment that clones even patent-encumbered and standards-hostile functionality. And that’s a real shame. █