ASP.NET MVC Now Accepting Pull Requests

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Changing a big organizations is a slow endeavor. But when people are passionate and persistent, change does happen.

Three years ago, the ASP.NET MVC source code was released under an open source license. But at the time, the team could not accept any code contributions. In my blog post talking about that release, I said the following (emphasis added):

Personally (and this is totally my own opinion), I’d like to reach the point where we could accept patches. There are many hurdles in the way, but if you went back in time several years and told people that Microsoft would release several open source projects (Ajax Control Toolkit, MEF, DLR, IronPython and IronRuby, etc….) you’d have been laughed back to the present.Perhaps if we could travel to the future a few years, we’ll see a completely different landscape from today.

Well my friends, we have travelled to the future! Albeit slowly, one day at a time.

As everyone and their mother knows by now, yesterday Scott Guthrie announced that the entire ASP.NET MVC stack is being released under an open source license (Apache v2) and will be developed under an open and collaborative model:

  • ASP.NET MVC 4
  • ASP.NET Web API
  • ASP.NET Web Pages with Razor Syntax

Note that ASP.NET MVC and Web API have been open source for a long time now. The change that Scott announced is that ASP.NET Web Pages and Razor, which until now was not open source, will also be released under an open source license.

Additionally, the entire stack of products will be developed in the open in a Git repository in CodePlex and the team will accept external contributions. This is indeed exciting news!

Hard Work

It’s easy to underestimate the hard work that the ASP.NET MVC team and Web API team did to pull this off. In the middle of an aggressive schedule, they had to completely re-work their build systems, workflow, etc… to move to a new source control system and host. Not to mention integrate two different teams and products together into a single team and product. It’s a real testament to the quality people that work on this stack that this happened so quickly!

I also want to take a moment and credit the lawyers, who are often vilified, for their work in making this happen.

One of my favorite bits of wisdom Scott Guthrie taught me is that the lawyers’ job is to protect the company and reduce risk. If lawyers had their way, we wouldn’t do anything because that’s the safest choice.

But it turns out that the biggest threat to a company’s long term well-being is doing nothing. Or being paralyzed by fear. And fortunately, there are some lawyers at Microsoft who get that. And rather than looking for reasons to say NO, they looked for reasons to say YES! And looked for ways to convince their colleagues.

I spent a lot of time with these lawyers poring over tons of legal documents and such. Learning more about copyright and patent law than I ever wanted to. But united with a goal of making this happen.

These are the type of lawyers you want to work with.

Submitting Contributions

For those of you new to open source, keep in mind that this doesn’t mean open season on contributing to the project. Your chances of having a contribution accepted are only slightly better than before.

Like any good open source project, I expect submissions to be reviewed carefully. To increase the odds of your pull request being accepted, don’t submit unsolicited requests. Read the contributor guidelines (I was happy to see their similarity to theNuGet guidelines) first and start a discussion about the feature. It’s not that an unsolicited pull request won’t ever be accepted, but the more that you’re communicating with the team, the more likely it will be.

Although their guidelines don’t state this, I highly recommend you do your work in a feature branch. That way it’s very easy to pull upstream changes into your local master branch without disturbing your feature work.

Many kudos to the ASP.NET team for this great step forward, as well as to the CodePlex team for adding Git support. I think Git has a bright future for .NET and Windows developers.

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