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Microsoft Not a Cathedral; Open Source Not a Bazaar

NEW YORK -- It's not every day that you see a Microsoft employee demonstrating Microsoft software running natively on Linux. Yet that's exactly what happened at AJAXWorld here, as Brad Abrams, group program manager at Microsoft for ASP.NET AJAX (codenamed Atlas) did today.

During a morning keynote, Abrams declared that Microsoft is not the cathedral and that open source isn't really a bazaar when it comes to AJAX, a claim that undermines one of the core underpinnings of the open source movement.

In 1999, Eric S. Raymond published The Cathedral & the Bazaar, a seminal tome on the open source movement. Among open source's many core tenets the book highlighted is that proprietary vendors such as Microsoft are closed, monolithic structures – the cathedral -- while open source operates in bazaar fashion where things are all done out in the open and with the community.

Abrams argued that Microsoft is not the cathedral when it comes to ASP.NET AJAX but is quite transparent. Furthermore, he stated that most successful open source efforts are backed by a commercial vendor, making them less bazaar than they claim to be.

"I'm not sure the bazaar analogy works," Abrams said. "Neither cathedral nor bazaar are the same in the AJAX Web space; rather there is a continuum that reaches across space."

According to Abrams, ASP.NET AJAX offers the best of both the commercial and open worlds. On the commercial side Microsoft offers 24 x 7 support. "In the open source world you can talk to people and get answers," Abrams said. "But we're offering guaranteed support."

In the commercial world developers also get a clear predictable product roadmap, according to Abrams. Also Microsoft provides a complete set of developer design tools and an end-to-end system that works.

On the open side of things, Abrams claimed that Microsoft was providing ASP.NET AJAX components with 100 percent source code availability. The components are being licensed under Microsoft's permissive license, which allows users to view, modify and redistribute source code for non-commercial and/or commercial purposes.

Among the ASP.NET AJAX components that Microsoft is freely providing under its permissive license is the AJAX Control toolkit, which is a user-interface toolkit containing over 40 widgets. Beyond just making it freely available Abrams noted that it is fostering a vibrant community around the toolkit with approximately 40 contributors outside of Microsoft already helping out on the project.

Open also means heterogeneous platform support for Microsoft.

"The reality of the Web world is that Windows is very broad close to ubiquitous on the Web today," Abrams said. "The other reality is that you have work on other platform and can't afford to turn away users that are using Mac or Linux as well."

As such Microsoft's AJAX library supports all modern browsers, including Mozilla Firefox and Apple's Safari.

Going a step further, Abrams explained that you don't even have to run Windows on the server side to get ASP.NET AJAX to work. "It is also server agnostic with no requirements for ASP.NET, IIS or Windows on the server."

To prove his point, Abrams opened up a Virtual PC window where he was running Ubuntu Linux and demonstrated how ASP.NET AJAX could run well on Ubuntu's local server.

"The Web is built on open standards and we at Microsoft believe that we have to enable those open standards."