Subject: Re: MS CodeSwap
From: Frank Hecker <frank@collab.net>
Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2001 13:40:20 -0400

Glen Starchman wrote:
> http://iwsun4.infoworld.com/articles/hn/xml/01/06/19/010619hncodeswap.xml?0620weam
> 
> This is pretty interesting. Microsoft seems to be acknowledging the
> power of code-sharing (they are very careful to see that it is not open
> source). I find it interesting that they felt the need to create a
> separate site for this service instead of simply using MSDN.

They are using a third-party application from Vertigo Software, and
Microsoft may have wanted to distance themselves from it somewhat. (See
my comments below for a possible explanation why :-) However the
CodeSwap site was personally endorsed by Bill Gates, so they're not
distancing themselves too far.

> Even more
> interesting: what sort of license do the code snippets have,

Unclear. Microsoft doesn't appear to have thought about the licensing
issue. But we can probably assume that it's not the GPL :-)

> and who owns them?

Microsoft doesn't appear to have thought about the copyright issue
either. Typically the copyright holder for the published code is going
to be either the developers' employers (if the developers are employed
under a work-for-hire arrangement) or the developers themselves (if the
developers are working independently). (Note that the technology allows
developers to contribute whole source files, so we're not just talking
about 5-line code fragments here.) The CodeSwap site doesn't mention
anything about asking your employer's permission before you contribute
source code.

> Nonetheless, it's a pretty neat concept... wouldn't it be neat to have
> a repository of code that could be accessed via emacs or vi? ;-)

Incidentally, note that CodeSwap actually appears to be a form of
peer-to-peer application. The code snippets don't appear to be published
on the CodeSwap site, they appear to be stored in a folder on the
developer's hard drive and accessed from there. Quoting from the
vscodeswap.com home page: "Developers have the option of choosing the
folder where they download code to, as well as the option of choosing a
specific folder where they want to publish code from.  All the code in
the shared folder will be available for other developers to search or
share whenever they are connected to the CodeSwap network." (Note that
one of the system requirements is having an "always on" Internet
connection.)

The CodeSwap site itself works on the Napster model, and appears to
maintain only a central index. Again quoting from the vscodeswap.com
home page: "Developers simply type in keywords for what they are looking
for.  The search will scan the file names, descriptions and the content
of the files to find exact matches in the centralized CodeSwap index. 
When users find the code that they are looking for, they simply download
it." (Like Napster, the download is presumably from the system of the
developer who contributed the code.)

<irony>
Frankly, I'm stunned: In order to promote its .NET initiative, Microsoft
is encouraging software developers to use a Napster-like technology to
steal precious intellectual property from their employers and give it
away to anybody who wants it, thereby threatening the foundations of the
information economy and indeed our very security as a nation. I think
Congress and the American people need to know about this!
</irony>

Of course, the lead sentence in the original InfoWorld story did say
that Microsoft was "taking a page from the habits of the underground
developer communities" :-)

Frank
-- 
Frank Hecker            work: http://www.collab.net/
frank@collab.net        home: http://www.hecker.org/