The Mono Mystery That Wasn't

The Linux community was abuzz about Miguel de Icaza’s controversial new stance on Mono. But in reality it was a classic case of Internet misinformation.
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At first, the rumors seemed irresistible. Miguel de Icaza, the creator of Mono, the GNU/Linux implementation of .NET, was saying what free software critics have been saying for years: the spread of .NET has been handicapped by Microsoft's restrictive patent policies.

Then, mysteriously, the SD Times story in which de Icaza is quoted disappeared from the Internet, preserved only in Google's cache. After years of supporting .NET, de Icaza himself now seems the victim of the conspiracy to ensure that anti-.NET or anti-Mono stories are censored -- or, just as likely, the victim of his own rashness.

The trouble is, none of this story is true. Or, rather, to be exact, the article has not disappeared, and de Icaza's comments are accurate, but have been taken so wildly out of context that their intent has been lost.

The Rumor Mill Grinds Coarsely

De Icaza's comments appeared in an article on SD Times by David Worthington. In the article, de Icaza is quoted as saying, "Microsoft has shot the .NET ecosystem in the foot because of the constant threat of patent infringement that they have cast on the ecosystem. Unlike the Java world that is blossoming with dozens of vibrant Java Virtual Machine implementations, the .NET world has suffered by this meme spread by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer that they would come after people that do not license patents from them."

The alleged disappearance of the article seems to have been first mentioned on Jason Melton's blog under the title of "The Disappearing Article Mystery." Finding that the article had apparently been removed and was available only in Google's cache, Melton asked two questions: "Why is this article no longer up on SD Times? Are all the quotes attributed to Mr. de Icaza in the article genuine?" A free software advocate, Melton otherwise made no comment beyond suggesting that, if the quotes were genuine, "I have more to say about some of them!"

This story was picked up in an article on ITWire by Sam Varghese, who also summarized the original article.

Even more coverage of the mystery was offered by Boycott Novell's Roy Schestowitz. After reporting on Worthington's article more or less accurately, Schestowitz posted a second article that made the unsubstantiated claim that Worthington's article published "rather damning material about Mono" and was removed in an effort to hide it after Boycott Novell's first article.

In addition, by appending a link to more recent comments that de Icaza has made in support of Mono, Schestowitz seems to be implying that de Icaza has been caught making indiscreet remarks.

Subsequently, the story was picked up by Slashdot, where many commenters speculated that de Icaza had switched his opinion about his life's work and was now verging on agreement with the many in free software who oppose his work on Mono and his close connections with Microsoft.

What Really Happened

The truth is less dramatic than any of the circulating rumors and guesses.

To start with, nothing has happened to Worthington's article. When contacted, Worthington explained that the article is written in two parts, which originally ran separately. The two parts were then reposted as a single article, which remains available online under the title, "Even with its success, .NET causes some consternation," with the controversial section appearing toward the end.

A Google search also reveals that the seemingly lost article is available in its entirety on a site called Slated.

"It didn't go off the web." Worthington says. "It's also in print, in about 50,000 copies."

In other words, there's no mystery, and no conspiracy to hide anti-.NET statements.

Moreover, when asked if de Icaza had reversed his stance, Worthington says, "That's not my opinion. I think he's being very pragmatic. He obviously likes the technical merits of .NET, and has a working relation with Microsoft that's pretty strong. Then he thinks that there are some things that are not so amazing about it when it comes to being cross-platform."

This opinion is confirmed by de Icaza himself, who posted a blog article that puts his quotes in article in the context of the original email in which he made them.

De Icaza begins the original email by stating, "Well, I am a bit of a fan of large portions of .NET, so I might not be entirely objective. You might want to also get some feedback from a sworn enemy of Microsoft, but you should get at least the statements from a sworn enemy that has tried .NET, as opposed to most people that have strong opinions but have never used it."

Next Page: De Icaza Speaks about Mono and Microsoft

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Tags: open source, .NET, Linux, FOSS, Mono

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