The Microsoft source code show

Microsoft has announced that it will open its source code to rivals in order to comply with the European Union anti-trust ruling, although these rivals will have to pay to see the source code.

While both open source and proprietary software advocates view source code as being sacred, both philosophies clash when it come to whether this code should be shared or not.

When part of the Windows 2000 source code was posted on the Internet back in February 2004, it was greeted with angst and unease by Microsoft. Only government and universities that signed non-disclosure agreements were able to view Microsoft's software code - and often that was after a very hard battle, and not much has changed since.

It is quite interesting that the two approaches to code disclosure, Microsoft's secrecy and the open source movement’s open approach, serve apparently the same purpose.

Microsoft says that opening the source code to everyone - Windows 2000 alone has 40GB worth of source code - will compromise Windows' security. OS proponents, on the other hand, say that opening the source code of their software helps to find vulnerabilities more easily and, therefore, pre-empt any attempt to cause havoc.

Under the global threat from Linux and the open source movement, Microsoft has, however, relaxed its own source code licensing. There are actually three types of licenses: Permissive, Community and Reference. While they are quite different from the GPL, it represents, in my humble opinion, a small but significant step in the "right" direction.