Microsoft announced the foundation Sept. 10 with a stated goal "to enable the exchange of code and understanding among software companies and open source communities." The company seeded the group with $1 million and Microsoft employees dominated the interim board of directors and board of advisors.
Ramji says the foundation has spent the past couple of weeks listening to feedback in "Twitter messages, email, and phone calls in order to understand what people hope this can be."
Within that feedback two patterns have emerged, Ramji says. One is a call for a broad independent organization that can bridge cultural and licensing gaps in order to help commercial developers participate in open source. The other focuses on creating a place where open source .Net developers can gain strong backing.
"Look at projects related to Mono, you also can look at NUnit, NHibernate, we really feel optimistic that the Foundation could help them gain a higher level of credibility in the open source community. They feel they have been lacking that strong moral support," Ramji says.
Miguel de Icaza, the founder of the Mono project and the creator of the Gnome desktop, is a member of the Foundation's interim board of directors.
From a high level, Ramji says the Foundation stands as a sort of enabler that helps independent developers, companies, and developers working for those companies navigate the nuances and practices of open source development so that they can either contribute source code to projects or open source their own technologies.
"One suggestion has been that the Foundation should house all the best practices we have seen software companies and open source communities use," said Ramji. "We want to have a place where everyone interested in how to participate can come and read and if they choose they can use our license agreements or can use the legal structure of the Foundation to grant patent licenses and copyrights for developers and derivative works."
Those licensing agreements have a distinct focus, Ramji said, on the rights that are related to code that is being contributed and on how to contribute the patent rights on that code. Once those issues are settled, code would be submitted using existing open source licenses. Ramji says the goal is to service multiple projects, multiple technologies, and multiple platforms rather than having one specific technology base, which is how most current open source foundations are structured.
"It's early days and we have received a lot of good ideas from experts in a variety of fields from law to code to policy that is what we had hoped for," says Ramji. "Someone wrote it is nice to see Microsoft engaging early on without all the answers and to have the community solve what they would like to see. That is satisfying for me and refreshing to others. This is the right way to proceed."