Does Mono even matter anymore these days?
I may surprise many of the readers of this blog, but as the title puts it, this blog is about how Mono does not matter anymore. Actually, I believe it stopped mattering 24 hours ago. But let me go back quickly on the last weeks and the come-back of Mono in the debates of the Free Software community.
It started with one Debian developer explaining why he thought Mono was a pretty good choice technologically-wise and not at all the patent-trap that those extremist punks with beards usually think it is. Actually I enjoyed reading this blog (for all the links check out OSNews and BoycottNovell) as it was very credible at least on one point: Mono is, for the best or the worst, essentially important for Gnome developers. Very few developments happen with Mono as the gateway from the Windows environment to the Linux one, and the ones that did happen have so far never been conclusive. Mono is very much present inside Gnome, pushed and shoved by Miguel De Icaza and Novell who seem to work hard at making Linux the constant second platform behind Windows (Why will remain up to everyone to figure out). So instead of having become this “Switzerland” of software platforms, Mono became a sub-level glue for Gnome, while being judged legally unsecure except by its own authors.
But let’s go back to the blogosphere. The discussion started once again, but this time with an acute political intensity, which prompted several major distributions to make a public statement about the Mono issue. Fedora/Red Hat (the other big Gnome contributor) decided to scrap Mono out of its own Gnome in its upcoming releases, Debian stuttered and then didn’t decide anything, while Canonical took a pragmatic stance and declared that if someone had a patent on Mono, that someone should better come out in public and stop the fearmongering. Add to this a comical episode about TomBoy and Gnote that illustrates well the Mono dependency hell: why code light when you can code with Mono?
… And all of the sudden the elephant in the room, aka Microsoft, started making a strange, rumbling noise in the background.
Microsoft essentially declared that most of the Mono core was clean by publishing its community promise on CLI and the C# language. Is that good news? It is good news because it’s always good to know that Microsoft is embracing competition and openness. Their promise is pretty good, although it does not clear up GPL implementations from any threat. Some of my readers will think that I can never be satisfied, but here’s the thing: I’m reading the FAQs, and as much as I have to say that there is progress, we’re still not there yet.And by the way; Bob Sutor and many others would love to see the same kind of promise applied to Linux, it would not hurt anyone.
Anyway, who should care about this? Gnome developers mostly. The rest of us have gone out of the .Net and Java wars after around 2004 or 2005, and have realized that there other realities such as Qt and Python (to name just a few), and most of all, there is the Internet, and the POSH (Plain Old Simple Html), and that new little Linux distributions launched by Google… And so much more.
Mono and .Net is one of the last schemes from an outdated behemoth; both the scheme and its inventor will soon fade in blissful irrelevance. It does not mean it cannot sting back though….
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