Thursday, 20 May 2010

On Brand, Credibility And Open Source Licenses

Bill Burke, a dear friend and respected JBoss Rockstar, posted some critical notes about the Apache vs LGPL license in response to Savio's "New BPM project questions value of LGPL"

Savio raises the point
On one hand, the JBoss Application Server, an LGPL licensed product, has garnered strong downloads and continues to grow revenue at a faster pace than Red Hat’s Linux business. It would seem that the LGPL hasn’t been a hindrance to JBoss Application Server adoption. On the other hand, as Newton points out, some ISVs, and as I’ve heard, some customers, remain concerned about viral licenses. While the LGPL was created to specifically address the viral nature of the GPL, some ISVs and customers remain weary.
To me, the most important difference between the LGPL and Apache license is summarized in: "some customers remain concerned about viral licenses"

I agree with a lot of points that Bill makes in response:
the OSS license chosen for a project is not that important as far as adoption or business goes. The most important driver for OSS is and always has been the brand of the project. Like their commercial counterparts, how the project is perceived by consumers is what drives both adoption and business. So, I agree, LGPL doesn’t add a lot of value.
If you boil it down, the distinctions betwen GPL, LGPL, and ASL are pretty much meanlingless to most consumers of OSS. How so? ...
I would rephrase those 2 quotes as "Brand and credibility is the most important aspect to an open source project, followed by the license".

But then I think Bill goes overboard on
The whole push by and its minions that ASL is the one true license is just damaging to open source.
I'ld like to clarify that we don't consider Apache to be the one true license. It happens to be the license that allows us to exploit our brand and credibility, without being hindered by some customers' LGPL concerns (even if they would be unjustified). So it's more a practical choice instead of a religious one.
Back in 2003, a group of JBoss contributors tried to fork both the JBoss code base and the JBoss business. ... We then come full circle to 2010 with history repeating itself (well, sort of). You have Tom Baeyens leaving Red hat for Alfresco to create a competing BPM engine.
I don't see the association between those two events. On the contrary, I do see in the JBoss fork a confirmation that brand and credibility wins from license: JBoss brand was *much* stronger then CDN. Similarly, the JBoss brand and credibility was bigger then Gluecode/Geronimo credibility.

I even more disagree with
If you are an Apache guy, you should be appalled by behavior like this when it happens. Individuals and companies that use ASL as a weapon to further their own selfish and commercial needs should be castigated...
Well... everyone in this business wants to make a living. I don't think JBoss or LGPL-focused companies are different from companies working with Apache license in that respect ;-) It's a different kind of dynamics and you have to select what best suites your needs. In our case, we wanted to aim for mass adoption and scale out the community. The more liberal license has allowed us to unite more forces in one community then was possible in an LGPL/JBoss style. The community we have assembled up to now (4 days and counting;-) is far beyond what was possible before.

Granted, this comes at a price. We can't relax. We have to keep leading and keep making steady progress to prevent forking. If we stall, then the community will take over and fork more easily. I think this move deserves more recognition for courage, rather then being castigated.
As for LGPL vs. ASL? I could care less, it really doesn’t matter.
I take it you mean that the license of an open source project does not correlate 1 on 1 to its value. I fully agree.
You don’t see JBoss caring so much either.
My experience was different ;-)

Anyways, I agree with your last statement:
Anyways, have fun with this, and remember taking any one position to seriously is unhealthy.
Under whatever license we play it, I'm looking forward to our next match of poker or pool.

No comments:

Post a Comment