re: Seven essential qualities of open source VIEW POST


The history is there for the reading; the Wikipedia entry for the FSM is a good starting point, especially the "subgroups and schisms" section.

But the bottom line is that open source is meant to be exploited. The FSM's practice of viral copyleft licensing prevents companies from profiting directly off of "free software"; you couldn't, for example, fork Mutt and productize it without releasing your own changes and extensions to its codebase, which largely makes productizing it pointless. You're allowed to make money on packaging or support, which is how Red Hat got where it is today, but it makes commercial software development a nonstarter.

There's a particular provision of the GNU copyleft license that makes it especially toxic to commercial interests:

You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that in
whole or in part contains or is derived from the Program or any
part thereof, to be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third
parties under the terms of this License.

This means that if I were to release a useful library under the GPL, you couldn't link or depend on it in your own projects without releasing your own source code under the same license. That's the "viral" part, and it's why I had to sign a statement affirming that I won't introduce GPL or other copyleft-licensed code into my current employer's software ecosystem.

Open source licenses, meanwhile, contain no such provision, which allows companies to build and sell products on top of other people's code without having to do anything in return or pay anything forward. It's been great for those companies, and the ability to download and use ready-made wheels instead of laboriously reinventing your own each and every time has worked wonders for the entire software development landscape; but at the same time, it encourages a distribution of profit and power that flows more readily to corporations who build on freely available resources than to the individual developers responsible for those resources' availability.

Thanks Dian, exploited is the keyword I was missing on open source!

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