Microsoft is hoping to fire up a community of developers on a code-sharing forum that the company has been testing since May, but which it rolled out officially this week.
The project, called CodePlex, is a forum for Microsoft code and code from other developers, said Jon Rosenberg, director of community source programs at Microsoft.
"We're actually establishing a venue for the development community to collaborate with us and feed back into these projects," Rosenberg said.
CodePlex is not unlike many online communities where developers modify and develop source code. In recent years, Microsoft has extended olive branches to open-source developers after being criticised for its fierce protection of its own source code.
Code contributed to the site can be posted under any licensing terms, Rosenberg said. Microsoft is offering some of its source code under its own Share Source Initiative (SSI) licensing plan, which offers access to source code under varying conditions.
The software titan revamped and simplified the language of those licenses last October. Microsoft has released 7.5 million lines of code under SSI licenses.
Microsoft has softened the look of the CodePlex Web site, perhaps to make it more appealing to developers in the open-source camp. Instead of the Microsoft logo, it has a green banner that says "CodePlex."
"This is really designed to be a site that is in some ways owned as much by the community as it is by Microsoft," Rosenberg said. "We just thought a more neutral branding was appropriate."
The site will primarily be of use to software developers. So far, about 35 code-development projects are on CodePlex, more than half of which are projects from outside Microsoft, Rosenberg said.
The site uses Visual Studio 2005 Team Foundation Server, a Microsoft product released in March that allows for collaborative development of code and bug tracking. Code can be checked out and checked back in, allowing developers in different locales to modify the same file.
Users are required to register before they can post and modify code, Rosenberg said.
Another project is called Power Toys for Visual Studio, a group of development tools for Visual Studio 2005.
Microsoft has also posted tools for SQL Server and Iron Python, the .NET version of Python programming language, Rosenberg said.