Is this the end of Mono? Of Novell?

Well, that didn’t take long. I had thought that after Attachmate bought Novell it would be keeping its open-source teams working. Indeed, Attachmate CEO Jeff Hawn had told me that, “Business will operate as usual.” While Attachmate will be keeping SUSE Linux as a spin-off company, Mono, the open-source implementation of Windows’ .NET, is being shut down and there have been hundreds of additional Novell layoffs. So much for business as usual.

Mono, since its implementation of a proprietary Microsoft software stack and C# language, has always had its enemies in open-source circles. Frankly, I didn’t like some of .NET’s licensing ; I wasn’t comfortable with how close it brought open-source programming to Microsoft; and, having nothing to with software development politics or licensing, I didn’t like that Mono would forever be trying to catch up with its proprietary big-brother .NET.

On the other hand, there have been several great programs written in Mono. As far as I’m concerned, Banshee is the best open-source media player out there. I’m not the only one to think that since Canonical decided to make Banshee its new default media player in Ubuntu 11.04.

But, without its corporate backer, what happens now to Mono? I really hadn’t expected this. Microsoft sponsored Attachmate’s purchase of Novell. I had presumed they’d be happy to see Mono keep going. I was wrong.

While some people are happy about Mono’s demise and the stormy weather ahead for Novell, other open-source figures aren’t so sure that the end of Mono is really a good thing. Bradley M. Kuhn, Executive Directory and President of the Software Freedom Conservancy, wrote, that while

I have been critical of Mono … Mono should exist, for at least one important reason: some developers write lots and lots of new code on Microsoft systems in C#. If those developers decide they want to abandon Microsoft platforms tomorrow and switch to GNU/Linux, we don’t want them to change their minds and decide to stay with Microsoft merely because GNU/Linux lacks a C# implementation.

But will Mono continue? I’m sure it will in one form or another. Open-source software, no matter how encumbered it may be with possible copyright or patent problems, is hard to kill.

Will it continue to be an important software development environment is another question entirely. I fear the answer is no. While some programs, such as Banshee and the F-Spot photo manager, will continue on, it’s hard for me to see developers choosing to start significant new projects in Mono.

As for Novell? Well, I’m just glad its founder, the brilliant and cantankerous Ray Noorda is no longer to see the end of his company. It would have broken his heart.

Source: Is Mono dead? Is Novell dying?


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