Microsoft has released the source code for its ASP.NET server-side Web application framework, hosted freely on GitHub.

Microsoft has been softening its anti-open source stance for some time, but this release marks the first major Microsoft software platform to see the light of day. Yet given the evidence, this move was not altogether unexpected. Microsoft’s open-source roots date all the way back to 2006 with the launch of the Codeplex open-source hosting site, and Microsoft Open Technologies has hosted open-source projects on GitHub for the past two years, with software such as the Azure SDK available since 2012.

At its Build developer conference last month, Microsoft announced its next-generation Roslyn C# compiler would be released as open source. Microsoft also used the Build stage to announce the .NET Foundation, a foundation for fostering the .NET ecosystem of open-source projects. Then on Monday at the TechEd conference in Houston, Microsoft announced a preview of ASP.NET vNext, the next version of the ASP.NET framework, and revealed it will be an open-source project under the banner of the .NET Foundation. The writing was spray-painted in bold letters on the wall.

(Related: Other Microsoft announcements at TechEd 2014)

Let’s not get overly excited, though. After combing through the ASP.NET components on GitHub, there is much to be desired. Both the Entity Framework and MVC (model-view-controller) have been open source for some time on Codeplex, and the majority of the other repositories are relatively empty. Legacy ASP.NET code is nowhere to be found, nor is it likely to be.

This move is about the future, and a promising one at that. The .NET Foundation, still in its initial stages of formation, will shepherd ASP.NET vNext, the Roslyn compiler, and a host of other frameworks and projects into the open-source community. According to the ASP.NET Open Source page, Microsoft is also backing the Open Web Interface for .NET standard for hosting ASP.NET outside of Internet Information Services or Microsoft System Center, and it is working with the open-source community to produce other alternative MVC and service frameworks.

ASP.NET is open source under the Apache 2.0 license.