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My resolve to treat Microsoft like any another license submitter is being sorely tested.

There's been a lot of debate in the community about how OSI should properly handle Microsoft's planned submission of some of its licenses for OSD certification. That debate has been been going on within OSI, too. OSI's official position, from the beginning, which I helped formulate and have expressed to any number of reporters and analysts, is that OSI will treat any licenses submitted to Microsoft strictly on their merits, without fear or favor. That remains OSI's position. But... But I find that my resolve is being sorely tested. Because Microsoft's behavior in the last few months with respect to OOXML has been egregious. They haven't stopped at pushing a "standard" that is divisive, technically bogus, and an obvious tool of monopoly lock-in; they have resorted to lying, ballot-stuffing, committee-packing, and outright bribery to ram it through the ISO standardization process in ways that violate ISO's own guidelines wholesale. If Microsoft succeeds (which is beginning to look likely) they will have not merely damaged the prospects of open-source software, they will have ruined the good name of ISO by corrupting its people and processes. Because if OOXML, with all its huge flaws, really does pass, no one who has been conscious while this was going on is going to believe the process it passed through wasn't a charade bought and paid for by Microsoft marketing. There is always, of course, a certain amount of corporate gaming of technical standards. But, generally speaking, the process works; it creates conditions under which users get more choices and markets clear more efficiently than they would without the standards. That's why the destruction of ISO's reputation would be a calamity. The trust it has built up over many years is an asset worth all of the billions of dollars in friction costs avoided by standardization and thus not paid by the entire community of computer and telecomms users. Microsoft, in an attempt to preserve its Office monopoly, is making a determined effort to destroy that value. This is not behavior that we, as a community, can live with. Despite my previous determination, I find I'm almost ready to recommend that OSI tell Microsoft to ram its licenses up one of its own orifices, even if they are technically OSD compliant. Because what good is it to conform to the letter of OSD if you're raping its spirit?

Comments

I am impressed with the amount of patience you, and others, have displayed for Microsoft so far. Although it is "fair" to weigh license submissions on their merits alone, the fact remains that Microsoft never, EVER plays fair unless absolutely forced to. Cynicism alone is enough to conclude that Microsoft's "open source" license submissions obviously have subversive intentions. Only a fool would think that this is the venue where they are finally turning a new leaf. Microsoft should not even be allowed to submit licenses, much less have them considered for approval, until they withdraw their attacks against open source in all other venues: patent threats, subversion of ISO process, etc. All of the various things going on cannot be looked at separately. Think of it as an organization's open source "credit rating." You wouldn't be able to get a car loan if you had $100,000 of overdue payments on your credit cards, even if you did plan to make the car payments on time. It's all looked at as a whole: if you aren't making your credit card payments then it's a reasonable guess that you'll have trouble with the car payments too. I realize that the analogy isn't perfect, but Microsoft has an abysmal trustworthiness record, and there is absolutely no reason to begin trusting them now. If Microsoft wants to publish open source software, let them use GPL, BSD, or any of the other fine licenses which are already available.

Even though I am temporarily forced to use Microsoft products until I can afford my own machine, I am in total agreement with Art Cancro about Microsoft not being allowed to submit licenses. Trust me, I would rather use MacIntosh software than theirs. I have a print-out of their EULA and I wonder, if MS can bull-dog a consumer, They can be just as great of a threat to OSI. Even their Internet Explorer stinks as far as online security is concerned. They have bull-dogged Apple, (who makes the Mac and its software), and is trying to bull-dog Sony, Sun, and other companies. What makes us think that they will not attempt to use their high-priced attorneys to bull-dog us. I do not believe that standardization is fair to consumers and companies. I also grow tired of downloading endless patches to keep my system running efficiently and hacker / virus free. Trust me when I say this, as I am a Christian... " Give the devil an inch, he will fight to take the entire mile." The devil, in this case being Microsoft. We need to be extremely careful when trying to negotiate with them

Miguel seems to think OOXML is worthwhile. So do a lot of other people. Perhaps you could elaborate on why you think OOXML is so full of holes and why the ODF standard is superior. http://tirania.org/blog/archive/2007/Jan-30.html

The original article above was more concerned with with the methods MS was employing to ram OOXML through as an international standard, and less with its suitability as a standard. I'm fortunate enough to belong to a country which, despite MS' sledgehammer tactics, decided to finally vote against OOXML in the international fora. This didn't come without a cost -- some of the finest technical, legal and political minds in India wasted the equivalent of 2 man-years in countering MS' proposals point by point, over and over again until our standardisation body saw the light and made the right decision. As to why OOXML isn't the ideal format for a standard, perhaps http://www.grokdoc.net/index.php/EOOXML_objections would be more enlightening than I. I have no comments on Miguel's thoughts on anything MS-related.

OOXML is worthwhile as a document format. However, it has certain problems which must be addressed before it becomes a standard. This is how ISO is supposed to work. Microsoft is attempting to force it through the ISO, flaws and all, without addressing the concerns of member states.

It is laughable that you consider Miguel de Icaza to be qualified to speak on the subject. Of course he thinks OOXML is worthwhile. He's a Microsoft shill. You'd get a less biased response from Rob Enderle or Laura DiDio. It is rumored that Miguel de Icaza is on a secret Microsoft payroll for the purpose of subverting open source from the inside. Considering how many schisms he's already managed to create, I'd say there's some validity to it.

You're exactly right. "Because what good is it to conform to the letter of OSD if you're raping its spirit?" Microsoft's past and current performance makes it very likely that they will be raping its spirit. Corporations can be held accountable for past deeds just as much as a person can. And the OSI can be held accountable for the licences it endorses. It's not only morally acceptable to do this, but it's simple fact: People remember, in other words. If you're going to sign off on a licence that you know will be used to thwart the OSI's goals - be prepared for the backlash. Given Microsoft's track record, you can't really blame people for questioning your judgement and saying "I told you so" when this thing inevitably blows up in your face. It may require some officious statement on your site that a licence submitter's track record is a factor weighing in on the decision making process - but now is the time to make that change, I guess.

Eric - I understand your response, but, Microsoft cannot damage "the prospects of open-source software." Go with your instincts and trust the process. If license submissions are OSD-compliant, then we are witnessing the beginnings of Microsoft liberating software. Good stuff. The Microsoft machine will continue to change with new people and thinking and time. Can you imagine what it is like on the inside for open source advocates urging change? There have been encouraging signs, including Mono and CodePlex and Port 25 and SilverLight and this request for OSI approval for new licenses. Microsoft even supports adding ODF to ANSI Standards. Of course, we also need to stand against obvious corruption as you have done. Good dog, bad dog. If license requests submitted comply with OSD standards, then go ahead and pull that open source string offered and help unravel the proprietary nature of Microsoft. It'll feel good - how long have you waited for this moment? Thanks for all you have contributed! Amy :) http://opensourcecommunity.org/2007/08/31/microsoft-buying-open-document-standard%3F

Eric and I disagree on this issue. My feeling is that Microsoft is screwed no matter what they do. If they don't use any Open Source, they're doomed to have a higher cost structure for their software development forever. If they use Open Source, they're lending aid and comfort to their enemies. I think that Microsoft has looked carefully at this issue, and decided that they're screwed less if they cooperate with the Open Source community even as they try to screw us in other ways. The question here is whether 1) we need to worry about them trying to screw us, and 2) if we do, should we make our cooperation conditional on their cooperation in other ways? I guess the answer depends on whether you agree with my thesis above -- that Microsoft is being forced to the table. If they are, then they'll do what they need to do to get our cooperation. If they're not being forced to Open Source their code, that requires a theory that explains why they're being so nice to us given how they've behaved in the past and present. So the question in my mind is: what demands are reasonable given that OSI is a public benefit corporation and Microsoft is part of the public we're supposed to be benefiting. We could, for example, require that license stewards not criticize other licenses. That would be a tough row to hoe given the animosity recently expressed between the OpenBSD and Linux camps as representatives of the BSDL and GPL. We could require that license stewards accept as valid the OSI Approved Open Source License trademark, but we already do that as part of our license to use the trademark (that's a pretty standard term in a trademark license). So if we're looking for agreement terms that screw Microsoft, we also need to make sure that we don't screw ourselves just as badly. Suggestions?

I completely agree that license submissions should be treated fairly, however I question if Microsoft isn't being given unintentional preferential treatment just for the PR benefit of getting the "win" MS's inclusion in the FOSS world would represent. Like it or not the OSI stamp on MS licenses will be seen as validating their participation and place in the FOSS eco-system; even as they, at nearly every corporate effort, attemp to subvert and fragment the very community that is debating their inclusion. Far more important goals for the OSI to defend than impartiality, are your several year old goal of _reducing_ license fragmentation and _protecting_ the integrity of the FOSS ecosystem. What happens if OSI aproves these licenses and and countless individuals and companies are either forced to choose or even worse inadvertently PRed into a closed loop MS "open source" ecosystem. I am far more interested in how you would treat any other company that had MS's track record of conduct to both FOSS and open standards that offered these licenses, would the focus be on impartiality or more rightly the issues of proliferation and promotion of the FOSS ecosystem. ISO is an "impartial" organization that was within a hairs wisker of being gamed, sometimes being impartial means saying NO to an actor that is conducting themselves in bad faith. Microsoft certainly has no scruples of fairness or impartiality, and I fear if the OSI isn't carefull they will slide, with their "impartiality", into irrelevence. Clifton Hyatt -free software, for free minds and a free world

Did you expect anything different from a company that is founded on sledgehammering the competition? What I fail to understand is why people can't see Microsoft for what they are - just another giant corporation with no interests other than their own. They have no interest in promoting the freedom that is at the heart of the open source movement, just consider Vista with all its licensing restrictions. As far as freely available, true open source is concerned I'll believe it when Microsoft stop bashing supporters of the movement as "Communists" and stop using bully tactics to force users into a corporate straight jacket.

well, what Microsoft means by 'permissive' is that this license is more permissive in relation to Microsoft's 'other' licenses and not in relation to the english word 'permissive' as defined in the dictionary. I think we are being harsh in trying to judge MS by a common yardstick and not by its 'special' MS-yardstick which it is clearly entitled to. --kc www.rknowsys.com http://corporatelinux.blogspot.com/

...I think that it is a bad idea to allow someone's misuse of a system to cause you to behave unethically. If you have certain standards, then I believe it is vital to follow them. If a submission is to be judged only by those standards, there is no justification for suddenly making an exception, even for a manipulative and deceitful player. Making such an exception would undermine your reputation as much as you fear will happen with ISO. People would know that their submissions might not be judged on the merits, but that some other criterion may also be applied. Do you really want to go down that road? As for Microsoft - I am dismayed to hear that it may succeed in undermining the reputation and quality of ISO, but - money talks. Microsoft is gambling that its huge market share will keep it afloat even while delivering an overpriced, poor-quality product. If it can lock in the standard, it can stagger on for a while longer. The risk, which I admit is not a huge threat, is that it will wind up cutting itself off from the mainstream, and become a dead-end. This risk seems minimal, but in the past some other giants have fallen to other apparently trivial threats. Who knows?

Can one really see how the NT kernel works, with all the stuff stuck together like Windows is? Saying that the NT kernel and Windows (the Win32 Subsystem) have any relation would be like asking how you can compare any *nix kernel with all the XWindows stuff stuck together... NT is NOT what most people consider Windows, however it does POWER windows. Also the NT kernel is not too shabby, considering its design age, and it came from Microsoft. Go pick up Inside NT or a current version that deals directly with the NT kernel and not the Win32 subsystem. Deniss Sasser