Red Hat has made a controversial decision to include the Mono programming framework in the next version of Fedora, its distribution aimed at technical users.

The moves comes in spite of the Mono project's association with two rivals - Novell, which sponsors Mono, and Microsoft.

Mono allows programs written in Microsoft's C# language to run on Linux, specifically with the Gnome desktop environment. C#, part of the .Net framework, is designed to allow code to run on multiple platforms, but so far is overwhelmingly associated with Windows.

Chris Blizzard, manager of Red Hat's desktop group, announced the decision late on Monday on his blog. He said Mono would be included in Rawhide, the staging area for Fedora Core 5. "We’re happy to enable another convenient method to use our core desktop platform," he wrote. "In this sense it joins all of the other enabling tools we have, including pygtk and java-gnome for Java."

Red Hat was the last major distribution to include Mono with its software. The situation was beginning to cause problems for developers considering using Mono - programs developed using Mono/Gnome development tools couldn't run on one of the most significant platforms of the Linux world, without installing extra software.

Miguel de Icaza, Novell executive and founder of Mono, said the move was a significant step forward for Mono. "This is fantastic news for Mono users and developers everywhere and for Fedora users which will get both Mono and the various Mono-based applications that have been cooking," he wrote in his blog on Tuesday.

Blizzard admitted the decision to hold back on Mono was due to "business-related" and "strategic" factors. "In the end we came to the conclusion that it should be part of our offerings," he wrote. "And we’re happy that we’re able to help heal the rift that was slowly growing in the Gnome community."

One of the benefits of the move for Fedora users will be access to several popular applications that depend on Mono, including the F-spot photo management application and the Beagle desktop search tool.

Red Hat is continuing to keep Mono at arm's length, and said it currently has no plans to extend Mono support to its enterprise distribution, Red Hat Enterprise Linux. "Including Mono is another demonstration of choice being offered in Fedora," Red Hat said in a statement.

Many open-source developers mistrust Mono because of its aim of compatibility with Microsoft's .Net tools. One critic commenting on Slashdot raised the spectre that Windows users could end up being able to run any Mono/Gnome application, without Mono offering comparable compatibility with programs developed for .Net and Windows. "It actively hurts the Free Software ecosystem," he argued.