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Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- "One Year Anniversary Edition"

From: Alexander Terekhov
Subject: Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- "One Year Anniversary Edition"
Date: Wed, 02 Jul 2008 13:42:15 +0200


Monday, June 30, 2008
GPLv3 One Year Anniversary Edition 06/29/08 
The GPL v3 Watch List is intended to give you a snapshot of the
GPLv3/LGPLv3/AGPLv3 adoption for the past year.

This Edition:

GPLv3 - One Year Later
GPLv3 - 10,000 projects

Conversation With Chris DiBona
Richard Stallman on Free Software vs Open Source
Words of Wisdom from Marco Barulli
Significant Adopters and Rejectors
To Sum it All Up
Counts for the Week

Happy Birthday GPL v3

It is said that in the act of scientific observation, that which one
observes is permanently changed. My team and I were tasked on year with
creating a way to objectively track the use of the GPLv3 license and
variants within the global of non-commercial software. We spent about 6
weeks planning, researching, and developing tools, processes,
documentation and the public site On the front
end, we run JBOSS, on the back, Ruby and MySQL. We do analytics with
Pentaho, Groovy and Python, and we manage the content with Google Apps
for Business, Mionet, Mesh, and Dropbox.

On June 29, 2007, we went live with 67 Ruby projects from Rubyforge, and
by the first Friday, we went to 82. A year has passed, and this team has
been staffed by interns from fine colleges around the country, senior
project manager Kinyoshi Tokuyama, project managers Antony Tran and
Edwin Pahk, senior programmer Chris Porter, and me.

Our goal from that first day was to objectively track the use of GPLv3
variants (GPLv3, LGPLv3, and "or later"), provide accurate counts and
clear validation. For each of the more than 15,000 projects collected
for this project from more than 500,000 reviewed, the sources were
reviewed, proper license references and attributions verified, and the
license text, unchanged, was identified. While we used some level of
automation, we felt that there were problems that required lots of hands
and eyes on the problem. Among these were missing license text, no
license information in source headers, bad license links - GPLv2
projects that used URLs to refer to licenses rather than include the

We started distributing a weekly mailing, and published our first blog
7/2/07.Our hope was that transparency in our project would instill
confidence in our objective results.

User contributions via web form, email and phone calls has been

In all, a year later, we are still tracking the usage and adoption of
GPLv3 and its variants, including the new AGPLv3. I wish to thank
Palamida, Inc. for their generous sponsorship of this important source
of information regarding the use and adoption of non-commercial software
and related licenses. Their sponsorship allowed this project to run, and
afforded us the ability to offer 12 internships to deserving graduate

GPLv3 - 10,000 projects. The numbers say it all
As of 6/29/07 / 6/29/08

Total repository based OSS community: 145,909 / 258,367(SF total divided
by 70%)
Estimated Total active Projects: 21,886 / 38,755 (total divided by 15%)
Total active GPL: 18,166 / 32,167 (total active, divided by 77% GPL and
6% LGPL)
Estimated total GPLv3 conversion, including "or later": 13,079 / 23,160
(total active, divided by 77% GPL and 6% LGPL, divided by 72% estimated
conversion rate)
Estimated current "or later" impact: 9,083 / 16,083 (50% of GPL)

NOTE - As I said before, in the act of observation, one permanently
changes that which is observed. The total projects on Sourceforge today
was 180857. One year ago, that number was 102,136. 6 weeks after the
launch of the GPLv3 license, the number was 145,910. SF experienced a
40% increase in new projects in six weeks, and over 75% in one year. Did
our observtion influence the creation of new projects? Did we draw
attention to non-commercial software? Maybe.

The blog site has had thousands of users, hundreds of links to
significant sites, we have been mentioned on significant industry sites
and quoted objectively by analysts. I tend to believe that my team and I
removed some of the FUD element around non-commercial software, and
attracted a new set of eyes. I can't take credit for the sudden
explosion in new projects 6 weeks after the GPLv3 was launched, but
would we have ever noticed if I had not been observing?

The one statistic that have not modified is the active project metric. I
actually think it is accurate, and reflects the continuing growing trend
of usage of these projects over time. 
Or later – 6,858 of 13,079 / 23,160 projected – 76% / 43% 
LGPLv3 – 265 of 785 / 1390 projected – 34% / 19% (GPL conversion divided
by 6%) 
GPLv3 – 2,856 of 12,295 / 21,771 projected – 23% / 13% (GPL conversion
divided by 94%) This does NOT include "or later" 
GPL, not converted – 5086 / 9007 projected (GPL projects times (100% -
72% convert rate))
The use and creation of non-commercial, FLOSS, FOSS, Open Source, Free
projects has increased at a rate more dramatic than any previous point
in its measurable history
In the six weeks that followed the release of the GPLv3 license, overall
new projects on Sourceforge increased by more than 40%
GPLv3 increased private and commercial awareness to the potential of
non-commercial software for the better
All this in one year.

So, what is the summary?

Usage of the GPLv3 license variants has grown consistently with the
growth in non-commercial projects as seen in the last year. I have read
on sites not well informed about the lackluster reception for the GPLv3
license and its variants, citing a continued strong usage of the GPLv2.
What is not brought up is the existence and continued growthof the use
of the "or later" license condition, where, at the choice of the user, a
user of licensed software can be governed by terms of the present
license, or later (such as GPLv3). While it seems like a minor issue, it
could become a larger one if a user of GPLv2, or later, code, introduces
changes licensed under the GPLv3. In order to accept the changes, the
subsequent code, if used, would become, GPLv3.

In the end, if we combine all the "or later" with the GPLv3 and
variants, there are 9979 projects governed directly or indirectly by the
current GPLv3 licenses.

For this special edition of our blog, we found some key figures in the
Free Software/Open Source community to share some thoughts with us.
First we have Chris DiBona from Google Code, who answered some questions
regarding their stance on license proliferation and the AGPL v3. Next,
we were able to get some words from Richard Stallman from the Free
Software Foundation, who gave us an interesting interview, commenting on
the ideologies behind Free Software. And lastly, Marco Barulli from
Clipperz gave us some insight on the future of open source software.

Conversation With Chris DiBona, Google's Open Source Programs Manager.
( (06/29/08)

Ernest Park: The current rate of adoption of the AGPLv3 license is more
than double that of the LGPLv3. Considering the fact that the AGPLv3 is
the newest of the licenses above, I would contend that adoption is
consistent, and that this license may be the first widely adopted
license focused on ensuring the freedoms around web delivered services.
Is it reasonable to see that AGPLv3 will surpass LGPLv3 in number of
distinct licensed projects within the next year?

Chris DiBona: Maybe? I'd be surprised if this is the actual case.
Nothing personal, but without knowing your sample size those numbers are
next to useless. Our sampling of license popularity is based on our
crawl of the internet, version control repositories inclusive. Not just
individual and community repositories.

I might also point out that you're making an argument to halt support
for lgplv3, not one to support agplv3.

I should also point out that I'm speaking specifically about support for
the AGPL on's project hosting system. We have AGPL
projects in the Summer of Code and are substantive financial supporters
of the FSF and SFLC.

Ernest Park: The AGPLv3 differs from the GPLv3 ONLY in section 13,
providing language specific to address the conveyance that exists unique
to SaaS. Therefore, do you
think your resistance to AGPLv3 to date could be interpreted as a
resistance to specific SaaS licensing?

Chris DiBona: No, it is a resistance to overall license proliferation.
The benefits that the AGPL attempts to bring to SaaS is not worth the
damage yet another license brings to the open source world. The AGPL
clearly brings some interesting features to SaaS projects, and I
remember when we were releasing Sourceforges code from VA Linux back in
the day that some of the executives in the company were upset that other
sourceforges' had popped up and not acknoledged the original or patched
back. In the end, I don't think this is an actual problem. There are
plenty of examples of Apache or BSD projects that continue to be
industry leading evn though they are both quite permissive. Licenses
clearly matter, but project innovation and leadership count for a lot
more that the license a project might choose.

Ernest Park: With the time that has passed, have you reconsidered your
position on hosting AGPLv3 licensed projects?

Chris DiBona: No. AGPL doesn't have enough adherents to change our
position on hosing AGPL projects.

Ernest Park: What would you change of the AGPLv3 license in order to
make it acceptable to Google's code repository? Remember, the only
difference between GPLv3 and AGPLv3 is section 13, so I would suspect
that any changes would focus here.

Chris DiBona: Section 13 is a mess. Until there is more history around
compliance with section 13 and what it means to be compliant and where
the linking stops the AGPL will not see much adoption. And that adoption
is what would warrant it's inclusion.

Ernest Park: Comments from you in the past proposed that AGPLv3 had
nominal usage. Given the facts on license usage in new projects, are you
willing to reconsider your prior position claiming a nominal adoption

Chris DiBona: No, you are still working from the assumption that your
numbers are significant. It is my opinion that they're not. 113 projects
is less than the number of projects under any license registered on or sourceforge on any single day.

Ernest Park: There are other licenses that Google currently supports
with low overall projects, and with low numbers of releases under these
licenses. In your effort to prohibit license proliferation, will you set
license hosting guidelines for additional licenses with low current
usage, or are you focusing such sanctions solely on the Affero GPLv3?

Chris DiBona: That's why we're retiring mpl support, as it too is
underused. AGPL supporters seem to think this is something about the
AGPL, when it is about fighting license proliferation on I have nothing really against the AGPL save the
deleterious effects that yet another open source license brings to the
open source software development movement.

Ernest Park: While I personally find the huge numbers of unclear and
repetitious licenses useless, we either have to support them all, or
support only those that satisfy specific criteria. I do think that you
have attempted to outline criteria. It would be good if you objectively
spelled out the criteria and made it available for review. While I am
certain that the author of the "do good, not evil" license will protest
along with much of the FOSS community, the commercial marketplace and
developers going forward might appreciate fewer licenses with distinct
and defined interoperability.

Chris DiBona: So I think that your company has a significant role to
play in pan-license compliance support (obvious) so it is smart to build
competency around the AGPL, but for now, it's not destined to be offered
as an option at

Ernest Park: One last question. From recollection, your position
regarding license proliferation has not differed since your tenure with
OSI. It seems that OSI could set the example for tightly constraining
the proliferation of licenses - stop duplicate licenses, highly
incompatible licenses, and in all, set a framework for the approval of a
portfolio of licenses that together address specific licensing needs and
desires by the creators and users of the content. Why did OSI never
actually attempt to constrain "approved" licenses to meet a criteria
beyond the license itself, like interoperability, or duplication of
existing license?

Chris DiBona: Honestly? OSI is lacking dedicated personnel, which I
believe is quite crippling. Without a dedicated staff, how can one
expect them to summon the political will to be unpopular with the
adherents of the licenses they'd deprecate (which I know all too well).
I left the board a long time ago (to get my masters) but I still hold
some hope that they'll turn osi around, which I define as 'deprecating a
ton of licenses'.

Richard Stallman on Free Software vs Open Source (06/29/08)

Ernest Park: It is the one year anniversary of a milestone for
non-commercial software users and advocates. I accept and will publish
that your views and mine differ, but it seems proper that your voice
should be reflected on (this) site in response to the clear successful
acceptance of the GPLv3, LGPLv3 and AGPLv3. Do you have any comments on
the GPLv3 site and the progress that we've been maintaining?

Richard Stallman: In general, I'm rather unhappy with Palamida, both for
terminology (it generally uses the term "open source", which stands for
values I disagree with), and for substance (it promotes some non-free

Ernest Park: At the end of the day, free software, OSS, FLOSS, etc -
there are a lot of names to describe non-commercial software made
available in a framework that encourages participatory development, and
a lot of opinions and points of view, many distinct, all personal. I
believe that for the moment, we can both agree that our values differ in
some specific ways. However, would you mind providing a comment less
vague and subjective, focused more on the community acceptance and
success of the GPLv3 family of licenses?

Richard Stallman: The free software movement is not merely personal. It
is a political movement like the environmental movement, the civil
rights movement, etc.

You've described the activity using the ideas associated with the term
"open source". The free software movement's goal is not even included in
that description. Thus, a thoughtful free software supporter knows
better than to endorse the way the issue is framed by your site.

I fetched and read the last retrospective, and I got a bad feeling about
the values that seem to be present in it. I would have to do a lot of
work to identify why I see them there, and I am not sure that would do
any good.

Note - The interview above was the result of four rather long emails.
The interview was intended for the blog, and the summary above was
edited directly from the email exchanges.

Words of Wisdom from Marco Barulli (06/27/08)

Antony Tran: With tech at the forefront of our society, how do you
envision open source
in the future, both in general and commercially?

Marco Barulli: Being security and privacy issues more and more relevant
in our society I hope that the openness of the code that runs on our
computers/phones/... will be no longer an option.

Antony: What needs to change in OSS for it to compete more aggressively
commercial software?

Marco: More attention to the user experience.

Antony: Do you have any words of advice for our subscribers who are
trying to
develop the next big thing?

Marco: Just do it. Don't waste time looking for seed investors, put your
own money, time and energy into it. If you believe it is the next big
thing, VCs will come.

Significant Adopters and Rejectors

Significant adopters
Clipperz was one of the first established projects to adopt the AGPL v3.
Their backing of the AGPLv v3 showed that there was a niche of people
who were and are dissapointed with the Saas loophole that was not closed
in the GPL v3. They believe that software modified for services should
also be required to release their code if they used open source
software. Since their adoption for the AGPL v3 they have announced that
they are planning on developing a suite containing projects licensed
under the AGPL.

Open Office
Open Office was a large project that decided to adopt the LGPL v3. The
LGPL v3, the less restrictive form of the GPL v3, has not had many big
names taking on the license until Open Office. Just as with Clipperz and
the AGPL v3, Open Offices showed that there was a group of people who
wanted to update their license, but not take on all of the restrictions
put in the GPL v3.

Ubuntu Launchpad
Ubuntu's Launchpad as not officially adopted the AGPL v3 yet, but it is
a strong candidate for their project. If Launchpad were to adopt the
AGPL v3, it may give the license the boost it needed to become a more
significant license. And if more projects adopted the AGPL v3 it would
help Clipperz develop their suite based around the AGPL.

Significant rejectors
Google Code Repository
The Google Code repository stirred things up when they announced that
they would not host AGPL v3 projects. This week we were able to speak to
Chris DiBona to ask him questions about why they did not want to host
the license. The initial controversy revolved around their intentions
behind rejecting the license. Some thought that Google Code did not want
to host the license because it conflicted with their business model. But
in our interview Chris stated that their intentions were to fight
license proliferation. A few weeks back we also interviewed Marco
Barulli from Clipperz on the issue, see
Now both sides have been able to speak their minds' on the issue, so
you, the reader, can make an unbiased decision on the subject.

Year Summary
Well, one year has passed since the release of the GPLv3 and LGPLv3. I'm
not big on celebrating anniversaries just for the sake of time passing,
but anniversaries do provide a convenient interval for measuring
progress and events, so here are some of my thoughts on a few notable
developments over the course of the GPLv3 and LGPLv3's one year of life
so far: 
Free and Open Source

In general, the past year has been significant for the world of Free and
Open Source Software. The releases of the GPLv3, LGPLv3 and AGPLv3
garnered significant industry coverage and stimulated interest in the
Free and Open Source Software movement in general. Sun's acquisition of
MySQL in a $1 billion deal showed that software licensed under an open
source license can be a viable part of "big business" in the software

GPLv3/LGPLv3 – Released June 29, 2007

Increased focus on proper licensing documentation was a prominent issue
early on in our coverage of the release and adoption of the GPLv3.
Through our research on many projects, we found a noticeable number that
had very little or sloppy documentation in their downloadable code and
on the project's web site. Sloppy, outdated or nonexistent
documentation, such as not including proper notice of the license,
failure to provide a copy of the license or linking to the GPLv3 on the
project web site when everything else in the distribution says GPLv2 is
the governing license, weakens the ability of users and licensees to
preserve the rights given to them by the GPL. At a minimum, I hope we
were able to bring some visibility to this issue.

AGPLv3 – Released November 19, 2007

Released almost six months after the GPLv3 and LGPLv3, this may turn out
to be the sleeper license hit in the years to come. With a growing shift
in software toward a web-based "cloud computing" model, the AGPLv3
allows developers to choose to embrace the principles of openness and
giving back as embodied in the GPLv3 with projects that are hosted
remotely and interacted with remotely by users who never download the
source code.

The announcement by Marco Barulli, co-founder of the Clipperz ( ) project, of the intent to develop an
AGPLv3-licensed suite of web applications, was a great step forward and
a positive boost for the visibility of the principles embodied in the
license. See our interview with Marco in our May 23 blog post (

-Kevin Howard
Counts for the Week
And of course our counts for the week, as we always do. The last week
ended with 2721 GPL v3 projects, up 73 GPL v3 projects. The LGPL v3
count ended with 265 LGPL v3 projects, an increase of 14 projects. And
lastly the AGPL v3 count ended with 118 AGPL v3 projects, 5 more than
the week before. 

Notable Mention
Palamida actively takes submissions from visitors on updates on new GPL
v3/LGPL 3 projects. We are amazed at the number of submissions we have
gotten to date, but even more so, we are incredibly grateful to over 100
core contributors who have devoted their time and resources at helping
us provide up-to-date information.

The Research Group (

Ernest Park
Antony Tran
Edwin Pahk 
Kevin Howard

For more information, go to

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The GPL3 project, sponsored by Palamida, Inc ( ), is
an effort to make reliable publicly available information regarding
GPLv3 license usage and adoption in new projects. The work published on
both sites listed below is licensed This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States
License .


Palamida was launched in 2003 after its founders learned first-hand what
happens when companies don't have full visibility into the code base of
their software applications based on Open Source Software. Their
experiences inspired them to create a solution to streamline the process
of identifying, tracking and managing the mix of unknown and
undocumented Open Source that comprises a growing percentage of today's
software applications. Palamida is the industry's first application
security solution targeting today's widespread use of Open Source
Software. It uses component-level analysis to quickly identify and track
undocumented code and associated security vulnerabilities as well as
intellectual property and compliance issues and allows development
organizations to cost-effectively manage and secure mission critical
applications and products.

For more information about FOSS management solutions, go to, or send a note to Please
mention the GPL3 site when you reach out to Palamida.

Posted by Antony Tran at 7:48 PM   
Labels: 2007, 2008, Affero, AGPL, chris dibona, Ernest Park, floss,
FOSS, free software, GPLv3, GPLv3 adoption, licensing, marco barulli,
open source software, oss, richard stallman 


(GNG is a derecursive recursive derecursion which pwns GNU since it can
be infinitely looped as GNGNGNGNG...NGNGNG... and can be said backwards
too, whereas GNU cannot.)

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