Bonum Certa Men Certa

Mono, Open Core, and Other Bizarre Forms of Open Source

Apple core
Free software is not the same as open core



Summary: Why Mono fits the description of Open Core, which may make it "the New Shareware"

A LOT has been said since Samba's Jeremy Allison published his opinion about Mono [1, 2, 3, 4]. Jason from the Mono-Nono Web site got around to commenting about it and worth mentioning are the following bits:

In any case, I first started noticing Mr. Allison’s responses directly addressing the fallacy of comparing Mono and Samba in the comments to an error-filled attack rant against RMS by Jason Perlow for ZD Net. Although it is certainly “pearls before swine” to attempt to correct Mr. Perlow, Mr. Allison does make his point:
Comparing Mono to Samba is incorrect. Samba has the PFIF agreements, see here for details:

http://www.samba.org/samba/PFIF/PFIF_agreement.html

To my knowledge Mono has nothing like this.
[...]

Mr. Allison has now taken the time to address Mono in more detail with a blog entry “Monomania“. I encourage you to read it.

I also encourage you to consider all the hoops that Team Mono insists critics people must jump through to criticize Mono, and how Mr. Allison surely meets or exceeds all that I have seen. Yet, I do not see Team Mono accepting his criticism, nor do I see my mailbox filling with acknowledgement that it’s not just crazy zealots that have a problem with Mono.

Why am I not seeing these things? Because Mono apologists are not honest in their arguments. They like Mono, and will make any argument they think supports it, and ignore or attack anything that they think weakens it.

It’s a song I’ve sung many times, and this latest wrinkle on Mono == Samba is just one more example of the sloppy reasoning and poor logic behind Team Mono’s defenses.


What's interesting about Mono is that, as the FSF warned, it is divided into "legal" parts (core) and "illegal" parts (those that require Microsoft software patents, such that only Novell customers are covered). It makes Mono very much akin to "open core" rather than "open source". For those who have not followed the heated debate about "open core", Bradley Kuhn from the SFLC calls it "the New Shareware" and Simon Phipps from Sun Microsystems commented about it as follows:

Bradley Kuhn's analysis reflects the same conclusions I've reached myself about corporate-aggregated copyright. That's not to say it automatically disqualifies a project as non-Free, but it's the reason I included "diverse copyright ownership" as a criterion on the proposed open source scorecard. As a side-note, Given Bradley's critique of the GPL as "just a tool", surely it's time to see that open source is not the enemy of software freedom and to finally cut the antagonistic rhetoric.


Is it time to say that Mono uses the "open core" model, where only "core" packages are to be seen as legal or gratis? Banshee, for example, is a Novell project that uses some Mono parts that require patents.

"The patent danger to Mono comes from patents we know Microsoft has, on libraries which are outside the C# spec and thus not covered by any promise not to sue. In effect, Microsoft has designed in boobytraps for us.

"Indeed, every large program implements lots of ideas that are patented. Indeed, there's no way to avoid this danger. But that's no reason to put our head inside Microsoft's jaws."

--Richard Stallman, 2007

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