Open Protocols

Yesterday I got this month’s issue of Doctor Dobbs Journal. As usual I poured through it immediately. The inside of the front cover had a Microsoft advertisement for its Open Protocols. I had heard this term used before. However I did not know much about it. So I decided to take a closer look at them.

The goal of this initiative is to “create smarter, interoperable products”. Microsoft is providing the specifications for Windows Vista, the .NET framework, Windows Server 2008, SQL Server, Microsoft Office 2007, Exchange Server 2008, and SharePoint Server 2007. The tag line in the advertisement was innovation, quality, and community.

I went to the Microsoft site that hosted the Open Protocols. They are described as protocol specifications for developers. They target Microsoft’s high volume business products. The documentation itself is provided free of charge. However you may need a patent license from Microsoft if you are to use some of the patented technology commercially. This initially made me think there was something not too open about this. In my mind, open usually connotes free of charge.

Now I have always been a little interested in the format of Microsoft Word documents. This was a good opportunity to get some insight into that format. This binary format was indeed covered by the Open Protocols. However the document that describes the Word format was a whopping 19 megabytes. The table of contents alone for the document spanned 13 pages. At least it looks like they are giving you everything you need. I found it a little strange that they provided the information in PDF format.

I have heard some grumbling in the developer community regarding the Open Protocols. Perhaps it was the part about the patent licensing which also took me by surprise. I am going to keep an eye out for more comments from other developers regarding this program by Microsoft.