(Non) commercial project: Redis change licenses, but remain in open source

    In the second half of August, a post appeared on the site of Redis Labs, the developers of the network journal repository of the same name , which spoke about changing the licensing policy of the project. The opinion that Redis is planning to make a proprietary product was immediately born on the network .

    The anxiety was false. Redis will remain an open project and will continue to be distributed under the BSD license . However, the software company still changed the license for a number of modules from the GNU AGPL to Commons Clause .

    We understand what this means for Redis and talk about the problems of commercialization of open source projects in general.

    / PxHere / the PD

    What happened

    After the announcement of the change of license on the Redis website , the community began to actively discuss the situation . And at some point there was a misunderstanding - some people decided that the license changes Redis. To clarify a number of points, CTO and co-founder of Redis Labs Yiftach Shoolman (Yiftach Shoolman) wrote an official post on behalf of the company about what happened.

    It says that Redis remains under the original license - BSD. The order of licensing changes only for a number of Redis Labs modules, for example, RediSearch, Redis Graph, ReJSON, ReBloom, and Redis-ML (there are about a dozen in total). They offer advanced features for corporate users. Their license was changed from the GNU AGPL to Apache 2.0 Commons Clause.

    According to the new licensing terms, anyone can use these modules, while respecting the basic license terms for the free software Apache License 2.0. However, selling modules is now prohibited - this regulates Commons Clause .

    In other words, if the application uses the functionality of the module or is built on top of it, then there are no restrictions on the sale of such a service. But to sell the original module is now impossible.

    Why change the license

    This decision is a compromise in the fight against the resale of open Redis modules. According to Shulman, a number of third-party companies use their solutions for free and resell them to their customers, but in no way participate in the development of the community and product.

    A similar story happens with many open source projects , for example, Hadoop and Spark - on their basis many companies build their business, making only minor modifications.

    As stated in Redis, the license change will allow the authors to ensure that the developers themselves or their sponsors will receive the money from the sale of projects.

    The problem of commercialization of open products

    Obviously, the money for the development of open source projects are not taken from the air. Some of the developers receive government subsidies, for example, NASA funds the project code.nasa.gov . Someone is supported by commercial companies. For example, Walmart spend significant sums to finance the Hapi.js framework . The retailer supports the developer Hapi.js, as it uses its solution to create its own applications.

    There are those who decided to receive money for the development of open source software by partially commercializing products, like Redis Labs. And they are not the only ones who went down this path - Berkeley DB , Asterisk ,Qt and many others. However, community views on the transfer of open source projects on a paid basis, seriously differ.

    Opinions against

    The decision of Redis to change the license for part of the modules was largely negative. If you look at the threads of Hacker News and the statements of developers in the thematic blogs, you can identify a number of general reasons for dissatisfaction.

    The first reason is that any form of commercialization is contrary to the principles of open source. Panellists note that products that use licenses like Commons Clause do not have the right to be called open.

    Some community members decided that Redis Labs traded open source values ​​for money. Simon Phipps, president of the Open Source Initiative (OSI), even called Redis Labs “software freedom waiver.”

    The second reason - the transfer of open projects on a paid basis threatens to destroy the user community, which has been forming over the years. A similar story happened with FoundationDB , when Apple bought it in 2015. The organization restricted the downloads of a multi-model DBMS and closed all the repositories on GitHub. As a result, the community that gathered around the project in five years began to disintegrate.

    Community size is one of the key aspects of product selection for many companies. For example, we recently chose a new logging system for ourselves in 1cloud . The choice fell on Redis and Logstash, as they have an extensive community - this means detailed documentation, FAQ, and live threads on StackOverflow.

    / Wikimedia / CC

    Opinions for

    Andreessen Horowitz partner Peter Levine (Peter Levine) states that any open project needs a business model. It is clear that without funding, he "bent." Developers may simply not have enough money to support and scale. After all, participation in a project to develop open software is, in fact, the second job.

    For example, one of the residents Habr wrote for himself a library for organizing a web socket server and “flooded” it on GitHub . Shortly thereafter, other users became interested in the project and asked the author to implement additional functionality. However, the developer himself had enough of what was already written, and he had no desire to develop the project further.

    Perhaps the commercialization of the product would help with its development. For example, such a story happened with nginx . The author was creating this web server in his free time. But now, on the basis of his decision, he provides a commercial service for clients. At the same time, the nginx code itself remains open .

    People who advocate partial commercialization of open source products also point out that without adequate funding, the project will not attract good developers.

    For this reason, in 2009, the Chandler project was closed , within which they developed software for managing the schedule. The lack of funding and a small number of contributors led to the fact that interest in the program died out in just a year.

    As a positive case in this case, you can bring the Linux kernel . The work of many developers on a project is fully or partially funded by companies like RedHat.

    Thus, the developers invest their time and energy in the project, make it better for others, and this prolongs his life. In turn, this has a positive effect on the development of the entire open source ecosystem.

    A couple of materials from our corporate blog:

    Also popular now: