Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

My personal, probably disagreeable opinion, but... The narrative that Amazon is somehow screwing over open source is getting old. I don't really think anything is 'screwing over open source', but if it's anything, it is the notion that we should severely restrict the licenses to ensure only the right people can monetize it. To me, the original spirit of open source is "I don't care what happens to this after I release it," like Linus releasing Linux so long ago. To that end, Amazon has certainly leveraged hundreds or thousands of FOSS projects over the years, but only a few have cried foul about it, and they happen to be startups releasing open source software.

I'm totally supportive of developers and their rights to release software under whatever license they feel appropriate, but if you release open source software, benefit from your software being open source, for probably years, and then someone else monetizes it... I'd argue you really ought to have seen that coming from the get-go. The license explicitly allowed it, it's not a loop hole that nobody knew about, it's absolutely intentional.

If people want to move over to shared source licenses like SSPL, or heck, even just close the source... that's fine too. But please don't try to call it open source or defending open source. It's defending a profit model that stopped working. Totally reasonable thing to do, but it's nothing to do with open source being corrupted.

I think Eben, rms, et al are 100% right when they observe that 'open source' hides the actual, important point -- even if the person you're talking to doesn't want to talk about freedom(s).

You used the phrase 'open source' 9 times in your three paragraphs, but didn't mention 'free' or 'freedom'. (Hmm, the F in FOSS may count as one veiled instance.)

Talking in terms of freedom for people to use free software however they want makes more sense than trying to dance through the forest of varyingly-free 'open source' licences.

I used to disagree on this point, but based on the way things have gone lately I think it's worth reconsidering. I definitely use the term 'FOSS' to try to convey that I'm talking about the term open source to mean free software. The trouble is, I don't necessarily want to be looped in with all of the opinions of rms, for example. rms has a different idea of what 'free software' entails, as evidenced by GPLv3. (Personally I still vastly consider GPLv3 to be an acceptable open source license, but you can see Linus Torvalds disagrees pretty staunchly with its added restrictions.)

> rms has a different idea of what 'free software' entails, as evidenced by GPLv3

I think we have to separate definitions from strategy/goals: the OSI open source definition and he FSF Free Software definition—the latter of which seems to be what RMS views Free Software as entailing—a remarkably similar. The difference seems to be that RMS and the FSF view preventing non-Free software as an important goal, and this prefer licenses which tend to have the effects of preventing downstream non-Free derivatives and encouraging people to relicense other software under them, whileany others in the FOSS universe prefer promoting FOSS creation and use to preventing non-FOSS software..

May be I am getting the wrong ends on both comment.

But I think he described it very well. Open Source, I am opening it and I don't care about Your Freedom, nor my Freedom or anyone's Freedom. And you should not judge me whether I care about it being Free or Not.

> ... I am opening it ...

This is the crux.

No two people agree on what this actually means, and it sidesteps any discussion of freedoms.

If we think of open source as an ideology that drove people to plant trees and tend them so that users get fruits for free at a time when fruits are only commercially available then the point becomes a bit more complicated.

We now have a cottage industry of people who harvest the fruits and sell them so end users don't have to pick them themselves and also others who use the free fruits to manufacture and sell milkshakes at higher margins than if they would have to grow their own fruits or buy them.

The relationship with end users and ideology is broken as is the pipeline of new contributors as end users do not anymore see the value and ideas that drove the initial plantations as they deal with fruit pickers and milkshake makers.

At this point open source loses its reason to exist and the people still planting and offering fruits for free will inevitably question what they are doing if they are only enabling third party businesses, but inertia means they will continue as that's their life work. But there is unlikely to be a second generation after them so that's the end of the movement. The story here is the commercial interests have cut the branch on which they and everyone else sit. For them it doesn't matter its just money not ideology and they will find ways to profit but the loss is to end users. So for open source to be meaningful its has to think carefully about how it will interact with commercial interests as mix and match will kill it in a generation.

There are free milkshake plants, it's the distros. The distributors take all of the open source projects, combine them, root out the bad fruits (DFSG non-compliant, etc.), and offer it to everyone for free. I don't have to pick my fruit from the AOSP tree and build my own image. I can just go to Lineage OS and get prebuilt images for a multitude of phones. These projects of course only reach a minority of people: Lineage OS has about 2 million users, while the entire Android market has > 2 billions. But they exist. The free milkshakes set a minimum bar that every milkshake plant has to meet.

Another thing to consider is the aspect of tree tending. If you are a professional tree planter who has worked at a tree plantation with a big wall around it, once you left, you won't be able to point at the tree any more and say "look, I planted it". E.g. when trying to get hired at another tree plantation. The only thing left of your own creation would be the diminishing memories you had of the tree growing, having its first leaves, first real bark, etc. Maybe your company won't like your tree for some reason and burn it. If it's outside, it can't be logged. If the company pays you to tend the tree, if they fire you you will still be able to tend it at a different company. Red Hat or Sun can be bought but the trees were outside of the walls, so the damages to the community were comparatively minor.

I hope nobody takes strong offense to this, but I don't really care for the hippie-esque philosophical reasoning behind open source. My own open source contributions are probably weak compared to many here, but I've been at least involved in a fair few open source projects since quite a young age. Bottom line: I don't use open source because it makes me feel good, I use it because it's better.

Linux is the canonical example. It gets contributions from everyone. Why? Well, I'm no expert, but it looks like it's because everyone wants to benefit from the latest changes, and the easiest way to do that is if everyone commits. Diverging forks are expensive, and get less peer review.

Open Source is a weird beast inside capitalism; it's this common ground between a bunch of varied corporations and a pool of random users. The fact that this amazing piece of infrastructure is just available and constantly maintained by its own users is more amazing than any rant about software freedom I've ever read.

Best of luck to all the FOSS developers trying to put food on the table through their open source work, I really do wish them the best, but let's at least be fair; traditional open source projects are doing great. Better than ever, imo. Whether it's desktop apps like Krita and Blender, infrastructure like the Linux kernel, web frameworks, programming languages, virtual machines...

This fruits analogy is really good!

I would like to belatedly disclose that I an an employee of Google, and that the opinions I have expressed are mine and not my employer's. I apologize for not disclosing in the parent post, most of my replies here were written in a highly off the cuff, passionate manner as this subject matter has long been very important to me personally, as a long time FOSS user and small time contributor. I did not expect it to resonate with so many people.

This aside, I also definitely hope nobody feels offended by these opinions, open source means different things to different people. Regardless of what it means, I'm hoping the best for the future of open source, and I remain strongly optimistic.

> "I don't care what happens to this after I release it,"

That is completely wrong, even for Linus, but especially to the ones that came before who called it free software. They did care what happened to it. They wanted it to stay free such that it continues to benefit society and enables people to do computing freely.

Amazon's internal policies towards open source and side projects are incredibly restrictive (in my opinion). If Amazon doesn't really want its employees to engage with open source, how genuine are the motives here?

Disclosure: I work at Amazon, and from time to time I help out with open source policy.

There have been a number of changes to Amazon's policies over the years, and personal participation ("outside activity") is really straightforward now. For the vast majority of cases you just need to submit a ticket with details, and then it is auto-approved.

For comparison, you can have a look at Google's open source policy on personal projects here: https://opensource.google.com/docs/iarc/

If you are an employee and have questions, drop me a line at msw at amazon.com

> and then it is auto-approved

So the prospects of Amazon reimplement all the popular open-source software someday is viable?


Amazon's policy on outside activity is very reasonable.

The State of California’s Public Policy on outside activity is very reasonable. Amazon is just making a virtue out of necessity.

Unless you want to make a game...

Frankly it's irrelevant. Nobody ever said you have to contribute back to open source to benefit from it, though I think you'd be stupid not to. Amazon released their fork instead of keeping it in house, could be a PR move, but I believe they just want to keep the advantages Elastic had being open source.

But honestly, whether the companies are 'right' or not isn't my point, and I hope it's not what people take away from my ranting. I only wanted to make a point about the narratives around FOSS being destroyed. People chose to build businesses on open source; sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. That's all we're learning.

Contrary to reports of its death, open source is alive and well.

modern open-sourcers don't care about software freedom. They want free contributors and marketshare so they can 'monetise' and 'exit'.

Gotta learn to spot the fakes.

FOSS devs have the same bills as anyone else.

Nobody is obligated to work on FOSS unless somebody is outright paying them to.

But people that work on FOSS, as owners of the IP they create, are also allowed to put whatever restrictions they want on it; if you don't like those restrictions, don't use it. Pretty simple.

Sure. The question is - do they still get to claim the "FOSS" moral high ground and branding, once they've "put whatever restrictions they want on it".

I think a _lot_ of people say "No" to that question. Are Redis/Mongo et al "Free Open Source Software"? I tend to think not. I'm completely behind their right to change the license freedoms they choose to grant.

But at least in my opinion, it's no longer "free open source software".

It's quite clearly not rms's definition of free software. It's less free than the EFF's definition of gpl (in any of its versions). It's almost certainly not what ESR means by "Open Source".

I don't know who gets to say what is and isn't "FOSS", but I'd suggest all three of those have at the very least "prior art" ownership of the definition, and the Mongo/Redis clearly do not have any standing to define that term...

> It's less free than the EFF's definition of gpl

That should be FSF.

Yeah - you're right.

(I won't stealth edit it to make it looked like I didn't fuck up tho...)

I don't see why you'd think I don't support that. It's pretty much my point.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact