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What's So Evil About Mono?

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The Mono project has been branded as evil, a sellout, a product of a Microsoft-loving lackey from its inception. I think this is a misguided attitude that is rooted in a mistrust of the power of FOSS, and especially the GPL.

The Samba project, like Mono, provides a cross-platform alternative to closed Microsoft technologies. It is equally vulnerable to the (increasingly toothless) Microsoft patent threats and arbitrary changes in the protocols. Yet Samba is admired. Perhaps the difference is merely in the words of each project's leaders-- the Samba team have never praised Microsoft's technologies, while Miguel de Icaza, the leader of Mono, has.

Insisting on some kind of purity before putting out the welcome mat is counter-productive. We shouldn't emulate the closed-source proprietary software world, with all of its paranoia, clannishness, and precious secrets. Most change occurs in small steps and takes a lot of patience and support. The effect that FOSS has already had on the software world is astonishing-- it's cool to claim open-source creds, and some software vendors are actually implementing it for real. Microsoft itself has been forced to dance to the FOSS piper's tune- they've had to open up protocols and engage in competitive bidding. These are things they've never had to do before, and that no proprietary commercial company has ever had the power to make them do. Instead they chose to knuckle under and pay their protection money.

The Mono project, like Samba, Cygwin, rdesktop, VNC, and WINE (to name a few examples) encroaches FOSS into Redmond's turf and gives users some real choices, interoperability, and a migration path. Who else is doing anything like this? No proprietary vendor that I can think of, at least none that are making any significant impact.

There are many paths to FOSS, and it doesn't make sense to be picky about how people get here. When Steve Ballmer called the GPL viral, he was correct, even though he didn't mean it in a complimentary way. The open source development model and the GPL are stronger than even the most ruthless, powerful purveyor of proprietary ware; have a little faith, they have already succeeded tremendously, and will continue to grow and change the way that software vendors do business.


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