Almost four years after a Decision of the European Commission found Microsoft in blatant breach of antitrust laws, more than nine years after the initial complaint was filed by Sun Microsystems, we are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. Today Microsoft and the Samba Team struck a deal to create the WSPP agreement.
Such agreement will have the effect of making available full and detailed information on Microsoft protocols in the Workgroup Server operating systems, as requested by Art. 5 of the Decision of the Commission. This is not the end of the problem, because there are strong issues with software patents, which remain largely unaddressed, but something of a start.
This is a major step forward to full interoperability, and Samba wanted to make it right. This is why we decided to remain silent, earlier in October, when Microsoft and the Commission announced an overhauled WSPP. We were not at all satisfied with the actual provisions of the agreement, which we did believe fell short of the commitment of making them available to Free Software. Andrew Tridgell, backed by Jeremy Allison, Eben Moglen, Volker Lendecke and my humble self have negotiated hard with Microsoft and reached an agreement that, as imperfect as it can be, will make life easier not only for Samba, but for all those who implement Microsoft's protocols for interoperable products. One of the most interesting features of the new arrangements is that any possible risk of being tainted by the access to privileged documentation is avoided, and developers are free to use it for writing and releasing source code to the public, commenting it, discussing it quite openly. There is more. Developers will be free to continue writing code even after the expiry or termination of the WSPP without taking back a single line of code, and even retaining “residuals“, in other words, unaided memory of the information they accessed. Another very good idea was to set up a non-profit company, named Protocol Freedom Information Foundation, organized by Prof. Eben Moglen, with a web address at http://protocolfreedom.org, which will serve as a hub to distribute the information to all developers under contractual agreements not less restrictive than the WSPP. The PFIF will be the actual party signing the WSPP agreement. This will contribute to reduce possible friction. What can we expect from all this? That very talented developers will not have to waste endless hours trying to understand some obscure architectures by “network analysis” techniques, but will have a reliable source of information and access to knowledgeable assistance by Microsoft engineers. Network analysis will perhaps not be dropped entirely, but the saved time can be used to improve the current implementation. Eventually, we expect that the very same Microsoft proprietary protocols will be hardened and improved by comparing different implementations. Those who claimed “it cannot be done”, or “forcing Microsoft to disclose this information would be disastrous” will definitely eat their own words, I hope. And it will not be the first time.
The total number of pages of which the documentation is made is 14820. Cheers!