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Microsoft's WTL Off to Open Source

For the second time in as many months, Microsoft has published source code for one of its projects on SourceForge, the world's largest open-source software development repository.

The software giant announced plans to release the Windows Template Library (WTL) project on SourceForge under an externally created open-source license. The idea is to encourage a larger pool of developers to tinker with the code and improve the bug-finding process.

The WTL is a lightweight windowing C++ template library that allows the creation of simple Windows GUI interfaces on Windows applications. According to Jason Matusow, manager of the Microsoft's Shared Source Initiative, the library was posted to the MSDN network for several years and has been downloaded more than 90,000 times.

"There was a concern on MSDN that we were not committing enough resources to the development of the WTL. We are addressing those concerns by releasing the source code to a wider developer community to allow them to work directly on the library," Matusow told internetnews.com.

"The whole function of shared source is to learn from open-source and apply that to how we do business."

The release of the WTL code mirrors last month's unprecedented release of the Windows Installer XML (WiX) toolset and all of its source code to developers on SourceForge.

While WTL code has been available on MSDN for many years, the WiX toolset was previously only used internally by Microsoft developers, a significant difference that Matusow hopes will provide a valuable lesson for future code releases on SourceForge.

He said the goals of the shared source initiative are to support existing customers, encourage new development, push academic research and provide business opportunities for Microsoft partners. As for whether developers might see more Microsoft code on SourceForge in the future, the hints are clear.

"We will we continue to go down this [SourceForge] path," Matusow said, making it clear it was a strategy decision embraced at all levels at Redmond. "It's not about whether it's right or wrong to release source code. It's about what's good for our customers and how it fits into our business."