Bonum Certa Men Certa

Using Open Source Merely to Sell Proprietary Software

Redefining open source, forgetting Free software

What's in a licence? To a developer -- almost everything. See the citation at the bottom of this post (from a KDE developer).

“Microsoft 'Open Source' casts a shadow on the meaning of the term because such source typically depends on the availability of a proprietary software stack which may include SQL Server, SharePoint, .NET and Windows.”Sun's embrace of MySQL is an interesting one because we are told that we should like it, but affinity very much depends on whether we care about the Linux kernel or Free software in the broader sense. And then there's open source. Microsoft 'Open Source' casts a shadow on the meaning of the term because such source typically depends on the availability of a proprietary software stack which may include SQL Server, SharePoint, .NET and Windows. It is open source only at one level of abstraction (think about the 'Java trap') and it mainly serves the producer of the stack, not just the developer and maintainer of the source code.

I happen to know this pretty well because my MATLAB contributions, for example, despite the fact that they are free and open source, are just helping MathWorks market itself. Without MATLAB, which is expensive, the code cannot run. That is open source as a development paradigm, but sometimes it entirely misses the point of Free software.

Linus Torvalds recently spoke about this issue. Dana Blankenhorn and Ed Burnette spoke about this too and here is an interesting discussion whose focus is Sun Microsystems.

In an interview at the Linux Foundation, Linus Torvalds warned of commercial control of open source. Using Java and OpenSolaris as an example he pointed out that “Sun ends up having rights that nobody else has – even if they then act perfectly and they really behave well, just the fact that they have special rights makes people legitimately feel like they are second class citizens.”

Fellow ZDNet blogger Dana Blankenhorn refers to this situation as “proprietary open source“.


Speaking of licenses and Freedom, Avionica has just made a press release available and it indicates that the GPLv3 was chosen.

Avionica will be releasing the Iridium(TM) Portal technology under the GNU GPLv3 license. Under these terms, any licensee who makes improvements to the source must re-submit those improvements to the community under like terms. For more information on the Avionica Iridium(TM) Portal, please contact Raul Segredo.


The next post will briefly look into the way Microsoft fits into this picture, especially in light of recent developments.

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