Last night I finished reading Robert Louis Stevenson's excellent Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I've known about the story since I can remember but this was the first time that I had actually read it. For those who haven't, Stevenson's allegory follows a London scientist in his discovery of a way to separate the two sides of his personality (the good side and the bad side), in the process of which he unwittingly liberates his evil side (Mr. Hyde) to his and others' detriment.
It's not unlike the opportunity and struggle that Microsoft has before it. As with any company, Microsoft brims with both good and bad intentions, as variegated as the employees and financial pressures placed upon it. Proprietary licensing is one tool it uses, a tool which is neither good nor bad, though there is nothing in proprietary licensing that is actually good for customers. Customers derive exactly zero benefit from a proprietary license.
Proprietary licensing is 100% in the vendor's favor and serves only to lock out competition and lock in customers. There is no other reason for it.
This, in itself, is not necessarily a bad thing (vendors need to sell or they won't be able to continue selling product), but it tends toward Mr. Hyde in purpose and is especially dangerous for a company like Microsoft given its market power.
This is why I believe open-source licensing is so critical for Microsoft and other companies who sell software. It protects us from our own worst intentions. Consider what ultimately broke Dr. Jekyll's determination to protect the world from his Mr. Hyde nature:… Read more