01.05.21

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Qt is Shooting Itself in the Foot With Licensing Changes

Posted in Free/Libre Software, KDE at 1:18 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Video download link

Summary: Qt’s assumption that developers would walk along regardless of licence changes (in Qt6 and prior LTS releases) is hugely misguided and plainly wrong; one need only consider what was said about Qt back when it was proprietary software

THE LATEST move from Qt (the company) is as worrying as prior plans, which Qt outlined in its mailing lists while issuing (after backlash) face-saving statements for the Free software community (trying to pacify key critics).

“Perhaps it’s assuming that locking bugfixes and/or stable releases behind paywalls would make the company richer; in reality, however, it’ll mean less inertia (many developers walking away).”The debian-private archives reveal the level of hostility towards Qt when it was proprietary software, as do the latest responses, which include last night’s Phoronix article and its comments.

Qt needs to tread carefully. Perhaps it’s assuming that locking bugfixes and/or stable releases behind paywalls would make the company richer; in reality, however, it’ll mean less inertia (many developers walking away). In this video I explain why I think Qt makes a fundamental strategic mistake; Free software is becoming the norm, so for Qt to move in the other direction (back to its roots) would only be a short-term strategy — a strategy which would, over the long run, reduce the userbase of Qt and drive developers away.

As Ryan put it moments ago in our IRC channel: “Absolutely nobody is going to accept Qt like this, where version 6 doesn’t even work and the LTS stable releases are proprietary. You can’t base Free Software on any version in that case, unless someone forks the LTS series.”

Developers like yours truly (I’ve used Qt and GTK, among other toolkits) don’t want to rewrite everything from scratch and reinvent the wheel (e.g. scroll wheel support). So we rely on frameworks. Qt has just become a helluva lot less attractive. No amount of technical merit will compensate for legal uncertainty.

“Most of the business plans around Qt failed to materialize,” Ryan has just explained, “and it’s changed hands many times.” Until there will be nothing left to change hands?

“There’s some commercial products using Qt,” Ryan concludes, “but it’s going to be hard to convince them to adopt newer versions or base anything else on it at this point. The logical thing to do is for those users to contribute to the fork so that they can be sure it continues to serve their needs.”

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