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Why not-so-open licenses are not-so-good



The number of licenses in open source has remained relatively steady for about 10 or 15 years. But in the past 6 to 12 months, there's been several high profile attempts to introduce new open licenses that aren't actually open. Because the definition of open source requires that everyone be able to use it on an even playing field, these new open licenses have been open unless you're one of my competitors or open unless you're a business that uses it in certain ways that we don't like and that's not really open.

I think the genesis of these new license strategies is frustration. There's a lot of folks who have been doing open source for a long time, have wanted to build a career around it, have wanted to build a business around it and that's not easy. It's never been easy. I don't think it ever will be easy as long as the core principle of "everybody gets to use this" is adhered to. And I get that frustration. I understand it. I've seen a lot of good people try to build businesses and fail.

But you know what I've seen a lot of good people try to build proprietary businesses and fail, too. So I think there's an understandable frustration there and we empathize with that at Tidelift. That's a big part of why we built the company is to try to provide a solution to that. It's just unfortunate that some of the potential solutions that are being experimented with right now are ways that cut off communities, cut off particular users. That's not really in the original spirit of open source.

And ultimately, we don't think it's very productive either. Right? Vulcanizing the tech industry is not is not going to be sustainable. We think at Tidelift that the focus should be less on exactly who gets to fight over these license changes, profit from the license changes, and more about how do we grow the pie so that all of the open source community and all the developers who are involved in that can benefit. Because we think that's the best way to make sure that open source thrives in the future.

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