Will GAGPL (GNU Affero GPL) Choke Web Heavyweights?

The GNU Affero GPL (GAGPL) Version 3 and the companion Affero GPL version 2 licenses released last week provide for public access to source code (modified or not) running on a network server. The current GPLv3 license does not cover this specific scenario, hence the new license version.To give an example, if you are browsing the latest hosted social media application and it displays the GAGPLv3 license, you should be able to locate and download the source code for the application you are using. You might have to pay a fee — remember the “free” in free software means freedom to copy, not the price — but you will have the source with the modifications to use as you see fit, subject to the other stipulations in the license. As developers adopt this license, will it cause web sites to rethink dependence on open source components?Palle Pedersen’s blog post “Is AGPL (Affero GPL) the Doom of Google?” has a lengthy analysis of the issue. He notes:

A wide adoption of the AGPL would change a current standard practice for creating a web application, where the developers start with a few pieces of GPL software and then modify the software until it suits their needs. With AGPL software in the mix, a business decision would have to be made on whether to use AGPL software and make source code for modifications and additions available – or to avoid AGPL software and spend more time developing software which can be kept out of the hands of competitors and potential hackers.Larger companies, e.g. Google and Yahoo, are actually among the best positioned to live in this new world. They can carefully evaluate the trade-offs on a case-by-case basis and can introduce processes to make sure that AGPL code does not sneak into places where it should not be.

It will be interesting to watch the rate at which this new license is adopted. One source for tracking open source license adoption rates is Black Duck Software’s Open Source License Resource Center. Read the Free Software Foundation’s announcement of the new license here.

Dojo goes 1.0!

Congratulations to the Dojo Toolkit for releasing 1.0 this week.As described in the SitePen Press Release:

Dojo provides easy-to-use, high-quality UI components and JavaScript infrastructure critical for building responsive web applications without the need for proprietary plugins or single-vendor solutions. Only 25K in size, the base of Dojo delivers key support for Ajax, progressive enhancement, animations, and opens the door to a wealth of high-quality widgets and extension modules. Dojo supports the Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, and Opera browsers.

Also shipping with Dojo core in 1.0 is the Dijit framework for widgets (including support for accessibility and internationalization of widgets, as well as programmatic widget creation), and the DojoX set of extensions (including CometD and Dojo Offline). Finally, the Dojo packaging system and D.O.H. unit testing harness demonstrate the maturity of the project from a development management / engineering perspective – it isn’t just about adding more features but making those features usable for development projects who adopt Dojo.

Open Source & the Alt.Net Community

They’re even talking about “participative communities” over in the .NET universe as the alt.net movement (insurgency?) gains momentum. Martin Fowler’s Bliki summarized the AltNetConf in Austin, TX a few weeks ago. He describes key participants as “a group of long-time users of Microsoft technologies who feel that their development philosophy has been getting out of sync with the perceived orthodoxy from Redmond.”Highlighting their shared approach to software development methods (think agile), Fowler addresses a key topic — the relationship between software providers and software users:

“A participative community is different, they don’t just want the vendor to listen and provide suitable products – they want to participate in the development of new products. It’s just such a participative community that’s taken the initiative in the Java world. JUnit, IBatis, Spring, Hibernate et al didn’t come out of the vendors, but were developed by “customers”. One of the things about the nature of the software industry is that many customers are every bit as capable of producing vital products as vendor companies, especially when combined with the community and ethos of open source.The great question ahead for Microsoft is how to engage with a participative and opinionated community like this. Treating such a group as an opponent will result in the loss of valuable products, and more importantly the capable people connected with them. Engaging with a community like this brings great opportunity. I would argue that the participative community around enterprise Java has saved the enterprise Java platform. A big challenge for Microsoft in all this is that this means finding a way to accommodate with open source development. …One other issue in a community like this is that it’s a community that doesn’t equate criticism with animosity. Many vendors suffer from the belief that anyone who criticizes them is their enemy. In truth often your friends are at their most valuable when they are critical.”

It will be interesting to see if Microsoft can be “open” enough to accommodate the alt.net movement. Given the caliber of the people involved, Microsoft’s loss would be open source’s gain. –

“Freakish” Enterprise Solutions Need Community Input

Just in time for Halloween, here’s a warning about scary enterprise apps and a reminder that it takes a community to build a decent solution.Matt Asay’s Open Source blog on CNET highlighted a terrific post by Khoi Vinh, design director for NYTimes.com. Vinh’s Subtraction blog takes on the “freakish” design qualities of many enterprise applications.

“Enterprise software, it can hardly be debated, is pretty bad stuff. The high-dollar applications that businesses use to run their internal operations … are some of the least friendly, most difficult systems ever committed to code.This is partly because enterprise software rarely gets critiqued the way even a US$30 piece of shareware will. It doesn’t benefit from the rigor of a wide and varied base of users, many of whom will freely offer merciless feedback, goading and demanding it to be better with each new release. Shielded away from the bright scrutiny of the consumer marketplace and beholden only to a relatively small coterie of information technology managers who are concerned primarily with stability, security and the continual justification of their jobs and staffs, enterprise software answers to few actual users.”

Vinh goes on to savage the latest Lotus Notes 8 ad campaign — “freakish” is too mild a term for it. Read the whole “If It Looks Like a Cow, Swims Like a Dolphin and Quacks Like a Duck, It Must Be Enterprise Software” post for more. Matt Asay’s point is simple — open source enterprise applications have at least a chance of being better thanks to the community processes underlying open source development. And if IT departments began using their own community of users to shape development … who knows what might happen?

Open Source Disruption: Will You Trust Your Community?

Research and consulting organizations don’t get much attention from prospective customers by saying everything is fine — “status quo.” So a firm like Saugatuck Technology can be forgiven for a bit of headline hyperbole when talking about the impact open source will have on enterprise IT management over the next three to four years. But “Open Source as Disruptive Influence” (research notes PDF, free registration required) makes a strong case for the impact open source is having on both enterprise IT organizations and the software and services vendors that sell to them. Saugatuck says:

“Thirty-two per cent of user enterprise executives expect that by YE 2010, more than half of their key on-premise software will be open-source.This massive growth in adoption is one reason why open source software is rapidly becoming one of the most disruptive influences seen on IT and business – for users and for vendors. Open source is changing the way user enterprises perceive, buy, and use software. And as a result, open source is changing the way IT vendors and service providers develop, license and support software …Open source is first and foremost a development methodology, not a product, a technology, a single license scheme, or a business model. Open source’s key advantages for users and vendors derive from its community-driven development model. The greatest benefits will go to those who understand this and use it to their advantage.”

I’ve been thinking about “community-driven” development for awhile now. Far too many organizations simply don’t trust their customers or their employees enough to let them truly collaborate on creating new products, despite ample anecdotal evidence that this makes better products and more loyal customers. Ask any developer pursuing an agile development methodology what their user collaborators say about the process and the outcomes.This thinking applies to more than software. “When Rebuilding Confidence Becomes the Priority” (subscription required) in Monday’s Wall Street Journal highlights the need to involve the community in the product to survive a near-disaster.

A380 courtesy linternaute.com When development delays of the giant Airbus A380 superjumbo drove launch customers to revolt, A380 program executive Mario Heinen “threw open Airbus factories and invited customers into planning sessions. “We shared details I can’t imagine other companies presenting,” he says.” While his moves helped restore confidence in the project, how much better would it have been if Airbus had more closely involved those customers all along?So here’s a question for the IT execs in the audience: does using open source mean involving more than a community of developers? Can the larger user community within an organizations be a trusted part of the open source process? Please post your responses and comments below.

KnowledgeTree Adopts GPL v3 License

South Africa-based open source document management project KnowledgeTree released KnowledgeTree Open Source Edition 3.5 under the OSI-approved GPL v3 license Wednesday, replacing the prior “KnowledgeTree Public License” for this and future versions.In his in-depth blog post about the license change, KnowledgeTree COO Daniel Chalef explains the thinking behind adopting GPLv3. Some key elements include:

“Firstly, we wanted a license that would be widely accepted by our community and the open source community at large. We did not want to risk the license we were using to be, over time, relegated to the peripheries of the open source world. We wanted to use a license that would have wide acceptance and momentum behind it. What this would mean is that our community would fully understand their rights and obligations around utilizing the software and would not be dissuaded from doing so because they felt they would need to undertake a lengthy and costly legal exercise to determine if they could use our code …We’ve also matured our thinking, built out our community, learnt a lot more about our business and now believe that a strong copyleft license is more appropriate for us: it is far more friendly to an open source community and far more likely to dissuade commercial use of the code in circumstances where profit is involved.”

I was struck by this forward-looking and common-sense approach. Speaking for the “customer” side, IT managers considering an enterprise-class open source solution for use inside the company firewall find the intricacies of some open source licensing terms can turn a simple product selection decision based on features and cost into a mind-numbing analysis of dense and often ambiguous licensing legalese.Acknowledging that easily understood terms for using open source applications benefit both the “customer” and the “contributor” communities demonstrates a clear vision of what’s important for the advancement of open source and the success of enterprise projects. Congrats to KnowledgeTree.

More Open Source Politics: EU 1 — Microsoft 0

Monday’s big not-really-news was Microsoft’s acceptance of the European Commission’s 2004 antitrust ruling governing sharing of information about workgroup server protocols with third-party developers. Microsoft also agreed to lower the royalty rate for the information. It’s a big concession by Microsoft — but a big ‘so what?’ from the enterprise open source community.InformationWeek’s Open Source blog may have headlined it best: Microsoft Bows To The EU, Open Source Shrugs . The post also gives a good roundup of the issues.But the best quote may have come in ZDNet’s Open Source blog . Citing no benefit and a change in patent licensing, OpenOffice.org marketing lead John McCreesh said: “the EU has laboured for three years to produce this particular ridiculous mouse.”In the same ZDNet post, Optaros developer Dave Gynn made a more specific request, noting while the decision opens up internal protocols “we’re not writing code to that level. We need web service APIs, not protocol at the network transport level.”Will Microsoft ever accept the open source agenda? Stay tuned for the next round.

Open Source as a Political Solution: Sarajevo

Enterpise open source solutions can show up in some unusual places. For example, take this blog item from Roberto Galoppini’s Commercial Open Source Software:

I just got back from Sarajevo, where I participated as speaker to an advanced course in web communications in the Public Administration. The course, aimed at public operators from Bosnia-Herzegovina, was designed to be an in-depth analysis on the use of Open Source in Public Administrations.

Galoppini’s seminar is part of “Project: BALKAN AREA 2 – Development and Strengthening of Local and Central Public Administrations

“The project “Balkans 2 – Development and Strengthening central and local PA in the Balkan Region” is aimed to 6 Balkan countries (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro) and continues the activities already started up and partly developed with the Balkans 1 project which was held from November 3rd to December 31st 2004. This is an integrated project of “Institutional and Capacity Building” aimed to civil servants and executives from central and local Balkan administrations, divided into diverse activities of technical assistance, classroom and on-the-job training, information and communications …”

Given the history in the region, it’s no surprise improved communications among public administrators might be considered an important undertaking. What better way to create a more open society than by using open source solutions?

Mindquarry is Dead; Long Live Mindquarry

Mark Twain reportedly once said "Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."Mindquarry, an open source collaboration platform, has announced that they will stop supporting the commercial versions of their products, effective October 1st: "Mindquarry’s commercial offerings end."However, as an open source platform, the decision to stop offering commercial products doesn’t mean the project has to end.Lars Trieloff quickly noted:

. . . this is not the end of Mindquarry as an open source project. As long as there is a community that cares for Mindquarry I will continue to invest my time in Mindquarry.

It will be interesting to see how the community around the project reacts – whether community activity waxes or wanes as a result of the decision to stop offering commercial versions.

Open Source projects linking with EOS Directory

We have extended our EOS Directory to provide an easy approach to Open Source projects to link into “their” page. This will allow Open Source projects to profit from being listed on EOS Directory and have real time ratings on their own site. All it takes is to copy some HTML code. Many projects have been asked for this functionality. There are a number of things we are also working on, so stay tuned for some significant changes coming up.

To use the badge, select your project page and look for the badge graphic and code at the bottom of the listing.