Microsoft tweaks Store policy for open source once again

Paid-for open source is OK. But here's a form to report the scammers

There was some backpedaling from Microsoft overnight as the company tweaked its Store policy to allow the sale of open-source apps that are otherwise available for free.

The news was delivered by Giorgio Sardo, general manager of the Microsoft Store, that the policy changes have undergone some substantial rewording. Gone is the reference to open-source and free software in section 10.8.7 and, as if to emphasize Microsoft's actual intentions, a link to Microsoft's online infringement reporting form was added in section 11.2.

Other controversial policies are still present. Notably, the ban on Store apps using Apple's WebKit browser engine. If your app browses the web, you've still got to use Chromium or Gecko (or, at a pinch, EdgeHTML).

The policy change to ban these types of applications from appearing on Microsoft's online outlet was due to come into effect on July 16 but was delayed following an outcry by the community.

Microsoft's original changes – ostensibly dealing with the issue of scammers simply repackaging open-source apps and selling them on – could have had an unintended consequence of depriving legitimate vendors of income, according to members of the open-source community.

While making an application downloadable for free from a website or repository is one thing, getting it packaged in such a way that it can be accepted by the Microsoft Store requires time and effort on the part of the developer. Microsoft's policy change to remove the ability to allow developers to recoup at least some of the costs involved could have resulted in the often tight budgets on which open-source code is developed being stretched beyond breaking point.

The policy as it stood was therefore somewhat of a blunt instrument. Microsoft noted the feedback and put the changes on hold while it reconsidered.

The change of wording around open source will therefore be welcomed, as will the speed at which Microsoft responded to complaints from the community. And let's face it, compared to some of the giants of the app store world, Microsoft needs all the help it can get. ®

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