Archive for the 'Open Source' Category

The GPL Won

January 18, 2017

It seems like GPL and related licenses dominate open source projects, by a lot:

At the beginning of his talk, DiBona said that according to Google’s net crawlers, the web now contains over 31 million open source projects, spanning 2 billion lines of code. Forty-eight per cent of these projects are under the GPL, 23 per cent use the LGPL, 14 per cent use the BSD license, 6 per cent use Apache, and 5 per cent use the MIT license. All other licenses are used with under 5 per cent of the projects.

So, GPL variants govern 71% of 31 million projects. Daaaamn. That’s a lot. A lot more than the rest, which are less restrictive.

I confess to being a bit surprised given the hostility (or exasperation) one often encounters by e.g., business folks when dealing with the GPL. Of course, it has two strong factors: it’s viral (so derived projects must use it) and it’s has a lot of advocacy, both dedicated (think Stallman) and more incidental (think Linux in general).

Ooo, I really have an itch to find out whether virality is a big factor….


On Facebook, Dan Brickley (thanks Dan!) points out that 1) this survey is from 2011 and 2) more recent surveys point to a shift away from GPL to more more permissive licenses, to wit, MIT and Apache:

Indeed, if we contrast each license’s share of the repositories surveyed by Black Duck [January 2017] versus January 2010, the shift is quite apparent….

In Black Duck’s sample, the most popular variant of the GPL – version 2 – is less than half as popular as it was (46% to 19%). Over the same span, the permissive MIT has gone from 8% share to 29%, while its permissive cousin the Apache License 2.0 jumped from 5% to 15%. What this means is that over the course of a seven year period, the GPLv2 has gone from being roughly equal in popularity to the next nine licenses combined to 10% out of first place.

All of which suggests that if we generally meant copyleft when we were talking about open source in 2007, we typically mean permissive when we discuss it today.

Read the whole thing, esp. the bit about the rise of unlicensed projects on Github.

Now, methodologically, their survey is smaller:

This open source licensing data reflects analysis of over two million open source projects from over 9,000 global forges and repositories.

So, it might be the case that the Google population wouldn’t show this shift. But, ex ante, a focused crawl is more likely (perhaps) to be dominated by “high quality” repositories, thus may reflect best or active practice better.

This all still cries out for some causal investigation.

License Troubles: Wikipedia vs. Flickr

September 25, 2015

I’m making slides for classes and for a talk.

I’d like to use images in these slides to make them less horrible to look at. I do not draw and even my diagraming skills are limited. I can take photos reasonably, but I can’t track everything I need, much less compose a photo while generating slides. This leaves the web! Yay! Lots of images!

But then…licenses. Damn. Ok, Creative Commons has been on the job for decades now. Google Image search will even filter by license type. Yay!

Wikipedia has lots of useful images. I often use them. But they don’t have everything. I find a nice image which seems perfect: A photo of an antique wooden French flat file cabinet.

I’d love to use this as my illustration of “flat file” database. License looks ok, non-commercial…

But wait, is my use non-commercial or commercial? What’s the rule for education use? Looking…not obvious. the CC website isn’t super helpful, then I find:

he NC licenses may not be compatible for remixing with many works. For example, a person may not remix BY-SA content (such as Wikipedia content) with BY-NC content.

Well, damn. Most Wikipedia content is copylefted (which is annoying as I don’t necessarily want my slides unrestrictedly reused, but whatev; I can live with it), but a good chunk of the content on Flickr (and elsewhere) is NC. So it doesn’t matter what my use is, I can’t do it.

Sigh. What was effortless now becomes impossible. And I’ve burned time worrying about it.