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Microsoft's curl/wget conundrum from a developer's perspective

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August 23, 2016

Within barely a week for Microsoft's decision to open-source PowerShell, a comment-war has broken out from the developer community over the popular and often-used, curl and wget commands and the debate appears to be escalating.

After all, those are simple open source command line tools for fetching internet content without a web browser.

Apart from obvious applications like downloading whole websites they're also under the hood for a lot of other toolsets.

A good example are GIS tools that regularly use curl and/or wget to fetch maps from Web services, among several other things.

For some reason, Microsoft's development team decided to put aliases for curl and wget in Windows PowerShell. To say that this is strange would be an understatement to some.

However, the issue is that those aliases don't deliver curl and wget functionality at all, and this is where the whole debate started in the first place.

The aliases should be spiked since they block the use of the commonly used command line tools without providing even an attempt to offer the same functionality, some observers have commented.

They serve no purpose for PowerShell users but cause a lot of confusion and issues to existing curl and wget users.

And the online debate soon got escalated to the next level. A PowerShell team member was angry since it would be “a breaking change” he said.

He retorts that adding the aliases was the problem, and it then emerged that the issue exists when people used to the Unix community install curl/wget separately from PowerShell on Windows machines, creating a real clash with the aliases.

The issue with simply removing them is that users might already have written a few scripts using the functionality provided by the aliases.

Microsoft's position on this is that killing them needs to go through a community request for comment process. That didn't go down well with some users.

We don't suppose that the issue is going to shake the world, but it's an interesting example of the kind of cultural discontinuity Microsoft's going to have to deal with, living in the world of open source software. This isn't the first time we see something like this, it sure won't be the last.

Sure, Microsoft keeps saying it wants to play nice and be friends with the open source community, but it's blunders like this that makes people wonder how sincere the software giant really is.

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