Microsoft first revealed plans to make WWT freely available under the MIT license back in January, and six months on it is now officially an independent project, as part of the .NET Foundation, a forum established on the back of Microsoft’s software framework that went open source last year.
Open-sourcing the software effectively lets anyone adapt and expand WWT for use in other projects.
For the uninitiated, WWT launched initially in 2007 as a research project, with Microsoft teaming up with universities and other academic institutions including NASA’s Caltech. In a nutshell, WWT is designed to give a “unified contextual visualization of the universe,” as the computing giant puts it. The software contains five main modes — Earth, Sky, Planets, Panoramas, and Solar System — and can be used by anyone to search outer space and focus in on any area.
“We believe that extensions and improvements to the software will continuously enhance formal and informal learning and astronomical research,” explained Microsoft. “Making the code available will also help ensure that the data, protocols and techniques used are also available for others to inspect, use, adapt and improve upon in their own applications.”
The open-source agenda has received a huge boost from the big tech firms of late, besides Microsoft’s own efforts, which include open-sourcing .NET and acquiring Revolution Analytics, a provider of commercial services for open-source programming language R. Indeed, just yesterday news emerged that Google was open-sourcing its software for making trippy images using deep learning.