Microsoft removes intellectual property rights to Web services specs

* Microsoft promises to keep the lawyers at bay

Some folks thought Christmas (Chanukah, Eid, Kwanzaa, Solstice - pick your winter gift-giving holiday) came early while others were willing to wager that Hades was about to bid for the winter Olympics. And it was all because of something Microsoft did. Imagine that!

Last week, during the Digital ID World conference, Microsoft delivered what it's calling the "Open Specification Promise," an irrevocable covenant not to enforce any intellectual property rights (patents and copyrights) for 35-plus Web services specifications including SOAP, WSDL, and all of the advanced Web Services specifications (i.e., WS-*) (Read the Network World story on this announcement).

Specifically enumerated specs are (and I don't purport to understand all of them!):

Remote Shell Web Services Protocol

WS-I Basic Profile

SOAP

WS-Management

SOAP 1.1 Binding for MTOM 1.0

WS-Management Catalog

SOAP MTOM / XOP

WS-MetadataExchange

SOAP-over-UDP

WS-Policy

Web Single Sign-On Interoperability Profile

WS-PolicyAttachment

Web Single Sign-On Metadata Exchange Protocol

WS-ReliableMessaging

WS-Addressing

WS-RM Policy

WS-AtomicTransaction

WS-SecureConversation

WS-BusinessActivity

WS-Security: Kerberos Binding

WS-Coordination

WS-Security: Kerberos Token Profile

WS-Discovery

WS-Security: Rights Expression Language (REL) Token Profile

WSDL

WS-Security: SAML Token profile

WSDL 1.1 Binding Extension for SOAP 1.2

WS-Security: SOAP Message Security

WS-Enumeration

WS-Security: UsernameToken Profile

WS-Eventing

WS-Security: X.509 Certificate Token Profile

WS-Federation

WS-SecurityPolicy

WS-Federation Active Requestor Profile

WS-Transfer

WS-Federation Passive Requestor Profile

WS-Trust

The promise applies to all versions of these specifications - previous versions, current versions and future versions! You can use them without fear that some lawyer will serve you with a cease and desist letter. You can build applications that rely on these as underlying services.

It's not the same as open source; you can't disassemble these things and use parts to build something else, and but you can use the services and protocols in their entirety as building blocks for useful services and applications. More importantly, for many of you, third party software houses can also use them to build new services and apps that cooperate and even compete with Microsoft's own offerings. As former Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki is fond of saying, "Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom," in this case all fertilized by Microsoft intellectual property!

For more about Microsoft Open Specification Promise, see its FAQ.

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