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N8n.io – Workflow automation alternative to Zapier (n8n.io)
728 points by tablet on Oct 8, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 196 comments

Thanks a lot for posting! Even though I had actually planned to post it later myself ;-) Happy to see my project finally live on hacker news!

n8n is a free node-based "Open Source" (Apache 2.0 with Commons Clause) Workflow Automation Tool. It can be self-hosted, easily extended, and so also used with internal tools. Currently, there is no hosted version yet but you can sign up on the website if you are interested to get informed once it is ready.

I created it initially because I realized that every time I wrote a script to automate a small task it took me a very long time. Depending on the task it normally involved: reading documentation, writing code, committing to Github, deploying on a server, error reporting, SSL, make sure it restarts on a crash, and so on. So even very small tasks took at least half a day or day till everything was up and running properly. Existing Open Source solutions were not up to the task and also commercial ones like Zapier did not work for various reasons. Some being that they do not work well with in-house tools or complicated tasks and it gets expensive quite fast, ...

So hope n8n is as helpful for other people as it is for me. Also, all help with further improving the project and create more integrations is very welcome!

The project website with the nodes which exist and example workflows:


You can find the source code on Github: https://github.com/n8n-io/n8n

The whole project is written in TypeScript and uses Vue for the frontend. So it should be easily extendable for everybody with web development experience.

If you have any problems, questions or need an integration which does not exist yet you can post it to the forum: http://community.n8n.io

Documentation can be found here: https://docs.n8n.io

Your feedback is highly appreciated!

Thanks a lot!!


[Sorry are unable to answer any questions right now as it always displays me that I am posting to fast. Will answer as soon as HN allows me!]

> n8n is a free node-based "Open Source" (Apache 2.0 with Commons Clause)

Commons Clause is not Open Source. It is free-of-charge (for certain uses) source-available proprietary software.

I understand that developers need to earn money for their work. => Another license option to use is the the one of UI.Vision and others: Split the product in an Open-Source core (e. g. GPL license) and a proprietary part for the commercial "PRO" features of the product.

Yes is an option but one I would hate to take. It would mean that I have to artificially cripple the product for all users just to eventually earn money from a few. That was the opposite of what I wanted. I wanted that everybody can use it for free which gives the product the chance to get used by very many people and so become amazing for all users over time. So ended up with the Commons Clause as it aligned the most with my vision.

Interesting project, I like Zapier, and was interested in using this. — What about auto converting to GPL always 3? 4? 5? years into the future? So the current version of the project is guaranteed to become open source eventually, although it always starts as Commons-Clause for a few years.

Look at the Business Source license — they do that. (I'm doing the same with my project: AGPL —> GPL some years later.)

Best wishes :- )

Hey, as someone who works in non commercial, public health research, please consider using a license that doesn't penalise charities. If you're using a dual license model, only rich organisations can use your software in security conscious industries like academic research (open sourcing our whole platform is far too expensive). Please, please, pick a variant of AGPL that allows non commercial use.

I'm confused :- ) Who are you writing to? Me or @janober? Did you mean that n8n could switch to AGPL?

All versions of AGPL allow both non-commercial and commercial usage. (And one needs to share-alike one's modifications.)

In any case I like the idea to be free for charities and public research :- ) You work with something like that? Is AGPL ok with you, or you're worried it might require you to open-source parts of your platform?

You! :)

AGPL requires all users to open-source their projects using your work, even if they don't modify your work. It is an extension of GPL not LGPL. If my web application uses an AGPL library, it's a derivative work.

I, like many in my field, work in a small team with almost no budget. My current project involves collecting sensitive (medical) data over the internet. The cost and risk involved in open-sourcing our application is prohibitive.

However, it's slightly less relevant for your project, as I can't see much value in directly integrating it into another application :) This is more a problem we run into with AGPL libraries, not AGPL applications.

Correct, you can buy the commercial license if you don't want to open source. This is a benefit of AGPL to the creators, and should you choose to open source your product, to the community as well. If you don't have the money, you can negotiate with the creator for the price. Note that this is a pricing/business problem and not a license problem. The creator, knowing your plight, may offer a commercial license for free, or a cheap, negotiated price.

I thought about that. But did not decide yet as I first have to inform myself and think properly about what implications that could have. For example, could it mean a split of the community like what happened for Elasticsearch which is never good for any project.

Fantastic to see more people getting into this space, and even better to be able to inspect the source code!

Who's your target demographic here? I work at a place that was considering using Zapier, but couldn't because the security story around that service didn't really meet requirements we had around legal compliance/regulations (SOC, PCI, etc).

Having freely available source to audit + a good security story could make n8n very appealing for back-office enterprise workflows.

Thanks! Really great to hear! It is actually one of my target audiences. Thought n8n has something to offer for kind of everybody. The three groups I had in mind were: 1. Private people and small Startups which care about the price 2. Medium-sized companies for which it is important to integrate their inhouse tools 3. Large companies/banks/government which care about their data

> 3. Large companies/banks/government which care about their data

As someone who left this space just two years ago and is now selling software into it I've been shocked by my users' appetite (appetites?) for self-hosted solutions. It makes me wonder whether SaaS will be short-lived and we'll see highly-regulated industries like finance and healthcare insisting data doesn't leave their servers unless absolutely necessary.

Depends on the org. Highly regulated places like self hosting because keeping data within your own network removes a lot of the legwork for corporate acquisitions processes.

If you run a SASS and a regulated business wants to use you, they need to process a whole slew of items:

1. Compliance - are you PCI/SOC/HIPPA compliant? When was your last audit? What were the results?

2. Legal - contracts, business continuity clauses, indemnity, liability around data, etc

3. Security - when was your last penetration test? Do you have a security team? What is your security posture?

The list goes on and there is overlap between different corporate concerns. Keeping things on-prem removes many requirements in exchange for taking on the maintainable burden of a product.

I'd love to see this on DigitalOcean's app marketplace for self-hosting.


Interesting resource. But, how do you filter for just self-hosted... I can't find that as a specific category.

All of the apps are "self-hosted". The marketplace just gives you one-click deploy to a VPS. It's especially convenient if you want to play around without committing to learn the setup bits. I haven't used the marketplace for any long term projects. But it's great for making MVP's.

Thank you very much for creating this - I love it! :-D

I don't know about all the licensing stuff and will have to evaluate if I can use it for official business but I'm glad I can just use it for my own stuff in private without paying high fees.

Don't take the harsh critics about the licensing too personally - I think it's cool that you released your code and thought about Open Source licensing.

Keep up the great work!

Thanks a lot. That is great to hear!

If you are unsure about if you can use it, simply explain what you want to do in an email to "license@n8n.io".

The goal with the license was not keeping people from using it. The main goal was to start it in a way to make the project long term sustainable which I thought would be in the interest of all people using it.

Also does not mean that people can never use it in a way which the license prohibits by default. It simply means that away has to be found which is beneficial to all sides. So just like anywhere in life.

I'm confused, is it self-hosted or not? The website says that a self-hosted solution is on the way, but here you say it can be self-hosted already, and I can't find pricing on your centrally hosted version.

It is self hosted - he hasn't released a hosted version yet but would like to.

The source and documentation for setting it up, using it, and developing with it are already available.

Sorry there was a typo on the "hosting" page. Got fixed in the meantime.

I see some integrations related to functions. Could you use this as some sort of a self-hosted alternative for AWS Lambda or CloudFlare Workers?

Hard to answer that in a general sense. It depends a lot on how you use AWS Lambda. In most cases, I would say no. But possible for a few.

Any comparison with https://www.flogo.io/ ?

Looks neat! FYI you have a typo on https://n8n.io/hosting you probably meant to s/self-hosted/hosted/

Thanks a lot for the info. Is fixed!

Zapier has about 1,000 integrations, more than any of their closest competitors and at a price that is far less than others in their space. What you've done here is great! The UX seems better than Zapier and the extensibility & community approach terrific. The key, though, is going to be adding integrations rapidly. I might also stress:

- Bulk actions. - Sync actions.

And support for other programming languages (eg. python)

Hope that helps.

If it's like most things in software (and life), there's probably a long tail of niche/useless integrations in that list.

Not really. The integrations are node-up, meaning the SAAS creates its own integration as value-add to its customers; and there's some user growth that emerges from being in their catalog. But, you point is somewhat valid in that many of the integrations tend to be shallow - so apart from a few key functions it can be tough to use them for complex workflows.

N8n.io looks amazing. I would absolutely switch over to this if there were more integrations! (Namely: Shopify & Zoho Mail)

Half-tempted to dive in and see if I can code something up, but I need to focus on other parts of my business and not dive down the scratch-my-itch dev rabbit hole (again).

Thanks a lot! It would be amazing if you would create those integrations but can understand if you have different priorities. In this case, simply add the integrations you need as a request to the forum. Other people can then upvote them and I know what to work on next. For example, already created a request for a Shopify integration myself a month ago which you could simply upvote: https://community.n8n.io/t/shopify-integration/22

The value definitely seems to be more in getting the integration. Having the integrations OS would be great to make small changes if needed.

Crowded space, but darn few (if any) shared source or community based solutions. Here's a several examples from a market study I did in 2018: Workato, Apiant, Inegromat, Snaplogic, CloudHQ, Boomi, Tibco, Jitterbit, AWS Lambda, Mulesoft, Tray.io, ApacheNiFi, Stringify, Adeptia, Kotive, Cazoomi, Scribesoft and several more.

I really think the community angle is unique.

I work at Boomi, on their Flow product (similar to this project), and we open source everything in our product, except for our core workflow engine - https://github.com/manywho (our pre-acquisition name if you're wondering).

The community part is hard to generate though... there's a lot of enterprise in the workflow space.

StandardLib also has a community, though not sure how big it may be.

Pricing is a key differentiator. My market research included a pricing analysis and Boomi was priced well above Zapier and other similar solutions.

I think there is a LOT of money ceded to less expensive offerings by 10 or 15 providers (including Boomi) all chasing the same enterprise market. I would've expected tiered pricing to emerge to a greater extent, but haven't seen it.

I watch this space very closely.

Thank you for sharing this list.

It’s maybe a dumb question but even after looking in some of them I usually fall back on a classic cron job + some Python scripts for automation for the flexibility. What’s the biggest advantage of these services / solutions when you already have some servers available?

Ability for a non-technical user to implement and manage the automation.

You don't have to learn several APIs to do any integration

Which one in your opinion allows for extensions of those APIs the best at a SMB price point? My frustration with Zapier is that I if they don't support the trigger, I'm kinda sol. I wanna be able to say "I want to manually add this API call" in a low code environment.

Also - do you mind if I grab some of your time to discuss on the phone? my contact details are in my profile.


Is your market study available to read anywhere?

Feel free to email me for it. My contact info in my profile (soon)

Any chance it's still available?

I've seen enough of these supposedly non-programmer-friendly interfaces to judge them all guilty until proven innocent (not that many, to be honest, but I am scarred nonetheless). Looking at the video, it's not the worst I've seen. But please, I beg you (the authors here or anyone building a similar product):

- Provide first class debugging and dry-run support. Don't make people either run in prod (as the demo video effectively does) or set up full testing environments.

- Strict, comprehensible scoping rules. Non-programmers will have more, not less trouble with having named data propagated everywhere for reasons that aren't visually clear. Global state is still bad.

- Don't make users think about JSON.

- Supply auto-layout. Don't force users to manually reposition things to get a decent layout, and ideally don't let them. The demo video seems to show at least the first half in place, so that's good.

- Version control. Possibly via...

- Ideally an isomorphically editable text representation. You can switch between graphical and text representations and have changes propagate.

Maybe this project checks more of these boxes than I've seen so far. I'm pathologically optimistic, so there's a good chance I'll work with this enough to find out.

I don't really know why everyone wants to keep making these benighted flow-chart UIs instead of using the relatively proven Scratch UI model.

I'm curious - could you explain what you mean by the "Scratch UI"? I did some searching on Google, but there appear to be several products which use this term.

Is this what you meant? https://scratch.mit.edu/developers

I believe they are talking about that. I've seen that methodology of UI take off lately, too.

Exactly that, yes.

HN usually finds a theme to complain about with any cool project. Looks like this time they picked licensing. Just wanted to say thank you for making this project. I think tech like Zapier/IFTTT are really cool, but I would never trust a closed platform of this sort.

But something like n8n I would consider using, because you've provided an escape hatch to lock-in by making the source available. I think it's totally reasonable to prevent other companies from profiting from your work. I also think it falls under the umbrella of "open source". If someone wants a truly FLOSS version of this, they're welcome to make it themselves. But they won't, they'll just complain and keep using n8n, because the licensing is good enough for 99.9% of use cases.

EDIT: I just want to point out that there's been some discussion of licensing here which I've personally found interesting and instructive. I've seen several people suggest that there is a definition of the term "open source" that is essentially universally agreed upon (that being the Open Source Initiative definition [0]), and that that is the only valid definition. I've worked in what I consider to be open source for many years, and wasn't aware that such consensus had been reached. My personal views have not changed as of yet, but my paradigm has definitely shifted. I intend to pay closer attention to how others use this term, and carefully attempt to be clear about my usage in the future. Having a single agree-upon definition of things is always valuable, and if that's where we're at I'm all for it. I'm just not convinced yet that it's actually 100% agreed upon.

That said, I think the author of n8n was pretty dang clear.

[0] https://opensource.org/

There's a weird trend on HN. For proprietary products (e.g. slack) I rarely see them getting criticized for having a proprietary license. If you are fully open source, then of course they love you. But if you try to strike a compromise and give away a lot while still keeping some licensing terms to let you make money off your creation, then you'll be bombarded by complaints about your licensing.

I don't think it's particularly weird, it's about misrepresentation. Most users attracted to open source licensing aren't aiming for abstract goals like "give away a lot" or even "give away as much as possible", they're aiming for "give away practically everything so they can use it for free in any way they want". Proprietary products don't waste these users time as they are clearly not suitable, but advertising an open core product as open source will attract a lot of unsuitable users who desire open source when you're offering open core.

If you're trying to make money, just don't do open source. No one owes you kudos for striking a compromise no one wants.

If Microsoft started calling Windows open source, I would be pretty peeved too. The word open source here is used as a marketing term for a product that isn't in spirit or reality. Yes, the source is available; that's nice, but it's not the same.

Windows isn't free. Nor is the source available to be viewed, modified, extended, learned from, etc. Also, you're comparing one of the biggest tech companies in the world, to an individual who is trying to make a living. This is an unfair characterization on every level.

>Windows isn't free. Nor is the source available to be viewed, modified, extended, learned from, etc.

I mean, I'm just using a popular non-open source piece of software as an example, you don't really have to read into it this much. Every comparison has limits, this isn't any exception. You can substitute 'Windows' for 'Gitlab EE' which is also proprietary software with available source code.

>Also, you're comparing one of the biggest tech companies in the world, to an individual who is trying to make a living. This is an unfair characterization on every level.

The depth of someone's pockets doesn't influence the definition of open source, though. This is not a characterization at all, rather, I'm saying that using the word open source to describe software that doesn't meet the criteria is always going to upset people. There is a simple solution that costs no money: removing the word open source. It is even recommended by the folks who push common clause.[1]

I realize people are very passionate about this, but please try not to read into what I'm saying too deeply.

(Also very notably: I have absolutely NOTHING against proprietary or shared source software, or developers making money; love Gitlab EE as an example. Just please be honest.)

[1]: https://commonsclause.com/

Well...characterizing the usage as a marketing term wouldn't be relevant if the potential for making money weren't an issue here.

Even beyond that, on a human level, the attacks on an individual trying to make a living seem unnecessarily harsh. My critique is mostly about the spirit of the negative comments (not just yours, sorry), which all seem to assume malice where there likely is none. I.e. several comments here and on the github repo calling the developer a liar and coward, etc (again, not you, this just happened to be the comment I replied to)

And I think this entire discussion proves that the definition of 'open source' is not as cut and dry as some people would like. And because of that, saying 'just be honest' when someone uses one of the alternative definitions of the term seems unfair.

I've always thought that the terms FOSS exists specifically to provide some extra clarity in this regard...

And I don't know what you'd call this other than "open source" because I haven't heard the term "source available" until today, and I would have had no idea what it meant if that's what the developer had used....

>Well...characterizing the usage as a marketing term wouldn't be relevant if the potential for making money weren't an issue here.

There is nothing wrong with marketing a project, be it open source, proprietary, free, non-free, etc. I never suggested that. Just about everything is 'marketed' in some sense.

>Even beyond that, on a human level, the attacks on an individual trying to make a living seem unnecessarily harsh. My critique is mostly about the spirit of the negative comments (not just yours, sorry), which all seem to assume malice where there likely is none. I.e. several comments here and on the github repo calling the developer a liar and coward, etc (again, not you, this just happened to be the comment I replied to)

It's because there's a lot of passion involved. Even people who are pretty great open source developers have acted in a way that is perhaps not so noble if you read the flagged comments.

However, I don't think this is necessarily out of assumption of malice. The problem is, it doesn't matter if the author is malicious or not. The term 'open source' carries some connotations that many people have an intuitive understanding of today. I firmly believe the very reason a lot of big projects choose open source is for the marketing benefit, and imo it is not deserved if your project isn't really open source. This could seriously harm the reputation of something that took decades to build, and if that seems alarmist, well, I know I'm not alone in this sentiment.

>And I think this entire discussion proves that the definition of 'open source' is not as cut and dry as some people would like. And because of that, saying 'just be honest' when someone uses one of the alternative definitions of the term seems unfair.

>I've always thought that the terms FOSS exists specifically to provide some extra clarity in this regard...

> I don't know what you'd call this other than "open source" because I haven't heard the term "source available" until today, and I would have had no idea what it meant if that's what the developer had used....

The thing is, if I say something is 'open source,' you almost certainly, today, will understand that to mean what it has meant for decades: the OSI definition of open source, contrary to the wishes of some (including rms, for example.) This is just the layperson's understanding. They may not have a deep understanding of licenses or permissiveness, but it comes with a sense of what a project has to offer. Being able to profit off of open source is something that people inherently understand nowadays, and it took a long time for that to happen.

The reason you wouldn't have understood another term is because there is not a common understanding for 'source available' or 'commons clause.' This is because it was not very popular in recent years, and remains relatively unpopular. It is mostly pushed by companies that built amazing open source projects and had trouble with creating a sustainable business around it.

And therein lies the contention.

- Because of what Open Source implies, it gives projects a decent marketing boost - including, of course, the common case where they are truly open source. People rely on open source projects understanding the implications and knowing roughly what they can do with it.

- Commons clause doesn't imply the same things. But some companies are trying to use the term 'open source' to describe them anyways. To me, this looks a lot like trying to have cake and eat it too. It's not the same 'open source' that people have slowly grown to understand.

Of course most people won't understand why this issue has much contention, because this type of thing seems like a minor detail. In fact, many people, including me, initially found it confusing that licenses like GPL allow you to profit off the work so as long as you follow the other clauses. It took me a long time to understand that this is a very important part of what makes open source special: the disconnect from the profit model. If you reconnect the development and licensing to the profit model, in my mind this is losing a key part of what makes open source so damn effective. Having many stakeholders that all profit from a project can be incredible - the Linux kernel being one such example.

People have to make money, though, and so going through the risky proposition of making truly open source software and trying to build a business around it is not always appealing. In my opinion, the obvious choice is to not make open source software. So-called "commons clause" is one option. But again, I think there is real danger in "open source" being conflated with things that nobody understands it to be.

Fair points. And it gives me a little more context into the intensity of the reactions. Thank you.

Cool project. One aspect of these integration systems is that the volume and velocity of integration development is one of the main ways they show value. Zapier claims 1500+ integrations, and they have many competitor with similar counts of integrations. Somehow, they always seem to not have that thing I need.

I wonder why, in this era of Swagger / OpenAPI / Postman Collections / API Gateways ... why this is so difficult? I feel like there was a promise that integration would become more magical at a rapid clip, but as it stands it just seems like there are more options but no less headaches.

A lot of APIs don’t support the tooling you mentioned, have all sorts of rough edges (return improper http codes, or don't return them at all), or act...quirky at scale (based on my experience at an automation workflow org).

Of course, as APIs improve (OpenAPI, etc), the barrier to entry for all workflow tools declines (which is a good thing!). You're then just serializing and deserializing JSON (or a mutation thereof) between two or more steps. Just as Google makes their Terraform provider a first class citizen by autogenerating the Terraform provider based off of their APIs (Hashiconf 2018 SF talk), so could integration partners for workflow automators. Just takes time for the ecosystem to mature.

Does Datafire meet some of your requirements?


I've used it before and it's not too bad.

Thanks for sharing, that is definitely compelling. I like that their integrations cover lots of API methods, whereas a lot of simpler services only cover a few.

Look awesome, and although the license is definitely NOT open source (although you DO say the parts that people care the most are best-effort open source to the community), this has the potential to motivate other people to work on similar projects or suggest improvements to yours.

However... The beauty of Zapier relies on its amount of pluggable blocks. I don't think there's anyone in this market that has as many operations as Zapier and using custom blocks you can do pretty much anything. Yes I am totally a fan of Zapier as I have been using it for years! Zapier is like LEGO, there are many clones of LEGO but only one true LEGO (ouch my feet hurt just by thinking about it ;) ) I really hope you can get people to contribute more and more integrations as that's what really matters at the end of the day: The ability to use little or no-code to achieve automation between various platforms!

Zapier is propietary and prohibitively expensive. Yes, I like it -- but I'd rather support small projects like this one, even if it requires a bit more of time.

We're using n8n in production for a month now and are pretty happy with it.

Easily extendable and new integrations can be built easily.

Also helps that the author works here and is generally a great guy ;-)

Same here. Nice work!

Nitpick but the commons clause license isn't really "open source" as much as "source-available"

Super happy to see this effort and eager to check the code out soon!

As someone who relies on a lot of Zapier-style API connections, I’d love to hear more about how people approach it - how you go about managing env vars (keys/token), abstracting similar service procedures (oauth, webhooks) and generally monitoring 3rd party API endpoints for keeping the connections healthy? Any advice from Zapier / IFTTT veterans?

Edit: the n8n docs seem good and also address most of my questions [1]

[1] https://docs.n8n.io/#/nodes

Yes, any advice would also be very appreciated from my side.

Great to hear that the docs are helpful! They were actually the main reason why I did not launch on Product Hunt/Hackernews earlier. It was very important for me to have something in place which is at least reasonable. Nothing more annoying than bad docs. Anyway, still a lot on my list to add documentation for. But it will get better, I promise!

question: if I have a project management software saas, and I want to integrate n8n to make automations (for example: when a task is marked as completed), is the license valid for this use?

Also interested in this example and the answer.

Hope this question is answered.

This is really neat! I'm generally prohibited from using stuff like Zapier at work, since we handle a lot of client data and passing it through any third party opens up a Pandora's Box of legal reviews. The self-hosted nature of this would bypass a lot of that hassle.

Public Service Announcement for anyone at BigCorp: Microsoft has it's own tool in this space called Microsoft Flow[1]. It's not as feature-filled as Zapier, but it works in a pinch and you get access to it automatically as part of an Office/Microsoft 365 license. So unless your corporate IT has gone to great lengths to explicitly disable access to it, you can leverage it to make your life at least a bit easier.

[1] https://flow.microsoft.com/en-us/

Leaving the UI aside, how is this different from Huginn? I have a few Huginn agents running menial tasks, but I find time consuming to debug issues. Does N8n have more connectors? What are the strengths compared with Huginn?

How are you funded? Because this honestly looks quite complete.

I work two days a week for a startup to earn my living and the other time I spend on other projects like n8n. That is why progress is not always as fast as I hope it would be. That is why I also hope to make money with n8n as some point to work full time and make real progress.

Wow how do you do this? Can you divulge the specifics?

Got a donation link? If not, do add it. In the meantime, I will deploy this and test to see how well it works :)

Sorry unsure, but perhaps this is similar?


> Standard Library: APIs as Building Blocks

Open source or not (I'm so confused) this works really well. Solid job.

From other comments in this thread, it's apparent this is "source-available" but not "open source" in the sense of a free software [0] or OSI-compatible [1] license.

But the usual benefits of free software, like what has been possible with the Linux kernel, GNU software, and so much more, are not going to be possible to the same degree with this software.

[0] https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.en.html [1] https://opensource.org/osd-annotated

Might end up difficult to talk about this project. I was pronouncing it "Nathan" till I found the actual name in the docs.

haha, same! I can see it eventually being renamed to Nathan

It would have to be Naaaaathan, then.

haha yes did not invest to much time in naming the project. Had questions about it quite often so added it to the docs very fast ;-)

How is this different from node-red?

Node-RED targets a different market than this product and Zapier.

Loosely speaking Node-RED has a superset of the functionality this project has, sacrificing customization/generality for simplicity.

Zapier and n8n interface with the user via a catalog model.

Without needing to know what is going on behind the scenes or seeing any code, a person can follow a recipe and bolt together (certain) APIs to achieve business requirements.

The “certain” is an important to note because you will never achieve 100% coverage for your “API glue” for a mid size to large organization “out of the box” with any tool.

That being said, if using a tool like any of the above mentioned as a custom workflow engine (knowing you will be writing software from the onset) or as a solution and not a limiting factor or “silver bullet”, they can be very useful!

Other tools that can achieve similar results (using Directed Acyclic Graphs, where the nodes represent the execution of your code for a desired pre-programmed task) are Airflow, Flink, NiFi, Dagster, Dagobah, Celery, and many more.

Node-Red is more low-level.

You can already see it in the way it describes itself "Flow-based programming for the Internet of Things". So it is "programming" what n8n does not try to be. In Node-Red they give you as a guideline that you should not write high-level nodes if you can write lower-level ones instead (which could build the higher-level one when combined). Which is totally right for programming but not really to allow none coders to automate things. That is also the reason why there are no Asana, Pipedrive, ... nodes in Node-Red. It is simply not what it is made for. It is perfect for IOT applications but not for higher-level automation tasks.

n8n, on the other hand, is probably not the best choice for your IOT application.

So it is simply about using the right tool for the task at hand.

In terms of the licensing debate... Did you bother to actually read the Common Clause FAQ? Here are the first 2 FAQ entries:

"What is Commons Clause? The Commons Clause is a license condition drafted by Heather Meeker that applies a narrow, minimal-form commercial restriction on top of an existing open source license to transition the project to a source-availability licensing scheme. The combined text replaces the existing license, allowing all permissions of the original license to remain except the ability to "Sell" the software as defined in the text.

This Clause is not intended to replace licenses of existing open source projects in general, but to be used by specific projects to satisfy urgent business or legal requirements without resorting to fully "closing source".

Is this “Open Source”? No.

“Open source”, has a specific definition that was written years ago and is stewarded by the Open Source Initiative, which approves Open Source licenses. Applying the Commons Clause to an open source project will mean the source code is available, and meets many of the elements of the Open Source Definition, such as free access to source code, freedom to modify, and freedom to re-distribute, but not all of them. So to avoid confusion, it is best not to call Commons Clause software “open source.” "

Have you thought about teaming up with an ESB like https://zato.io/ ? Could really help both of you, I think.

Thanks for this! I was just yesterday looking for good workflow automation tools, and was leaning towards Huginn, but I will definitely check this out.

Great to hear! If you have any problems simply post them in the forum I try to get back to you asap (sorry, will maybe be right ow longer than normal as I have a lot to follow up right now).

Do I understand this correctly?

- I'm allowed to setup an instance and charge clients to use it.

- I'm NOT allowed to host the instance for clients and charge for that hosting.

How do you compare to StackStorm ? You mentioned other similar solutions as less adequate, but I'm curious to get a quick comparison.

This would be a nice addition to the website, comparing the solution with each of its competitors.

I really don't like when people say they are the "x" of "x" or the alternative to "x", doesn't that just drive people to look at "x". Sure it gets the idea across but there are other words to do that. Otherwise, great looking product

It's not always that cut and dry. If X is already well known, it actually has the opposite effect -- it capitalizes off of X's brand and familiarity and drives people to the new product. It's a common technique (that is frequently misused) in marketing and advertising.

I don't know if X=Zapier here is that effective, but I recognized it right away, and clicked the link to learn more.

Good god Jan, you are amazing! Liked what you did with "link fish" and "ninja crib" but this takes things to a whole new level. I would love the chance to learn from you!!! Congrats, I'm pretty sure this project will be a big success

Thanks a lot! But probably not the right person to learn from. But that is one of the great things about the internet that you can now really always learn from the best people in their field thanks to Udemy & co.

This reminds me a lot of a visual code based data processing tool developed out of the NSA. Apache NiFi. The difficulty with all these low/no code environments is getting scale and maintaining enough widget blocks for it to be productive quickly.

This really looks like a great software and seems that the guy behind it knows what his doing. Additionally being open and fair about the licence. I will try it ASAP and wish the project gets BIG.

This looks interesting, though Zapier is a little more intuitive interface-wise. Overall though, nice work!

Looks awesome!! Bookmarked, planning to play w/ this. Kudos for launching something useful. :)

What are your thoughts on StdLib.com?

I love how you licensed it. I'm seeing a trend in how developers are being thoughtful about the licensing and how it will help monetize their efforts later. Excited to see how this goes.

Likely badly - this doesn't meet the OSI open source defintion, and while interesting, many developers are reluctant to contribute to various shared source / source available proprietary core products.

I'm not sure sure it will go "badly". I believe there's a fundamental issue with a class of software applications that the current OSI licenses don't do much for. Let me clarify that statement with some examples. If you're a developer of an "open source" library or database engine, you have great OSI licenses available to use. The consumers of your work will either open source their work or purchase a license (i.e. dual-licensing). If, however, you're creating a CMS or some standalone tool (like GIMP, for example), you're left to go down the road of open core (typically). So, the alternative here is to choose a license that's conducive of being able to monetize without depending on donations or support contracts.

I think developers should pick a license that makes sense for them, not necessarily for the benefit of others. What is important though, is that some thought is taken and to try it out. You can always go more permissive later.

I'm working on something that I want to monetize, but the OSI licenses aren't helpful for the kind of application I'm working on. I'm leaning towards a similar licensing structure and have been spending a great deal of time thinking about this and I hope to have more discussions on this very topic as it's extremely helpful for everyone.

edit: typos

Which I think is quite interesting.

I can totally understand if a person says "I do not want to contribute code to a project for free when somebody else can make money with it". But then they can not contribute code to any OSI approved Open Source licensed project. Because with that license everybody can make money with it. And very often is that somebody the wrong one (like for example Amazon).

The only difference with the Commons Clause is that now still somebody can make money. But that somebody is now the entity behind the project. And they normally put that money right back into the project (by for example hiring developers) and make so sure that it improves and stays around a long time. So I personally would prefer to contribute code to a project which uses the Commons Clause then one which does not.

>I can totally understand if a person says "I do not want to contribute code to a project for free when somebody else can make money with it"

It's not so much that somebody can make money with it. It's that you, the project maintainer, will be reaping all the monetary benefits for yourself. With open source software theoretically anyone can benefit. If you don't like what the maintainer is doing, you can fork it. In this case, though I believe the commons clause does allow you to fork it, you would still be the one reaping any monetary benefits from the fork.

In my opinion the biggest issue with the commons clause is it no longer makes logical sense to fork the project. If the project dies because you couldn't make any money off it, and you don't go back and relicense your work, the code is practically dead as an 'open source' project. Well, that and that the consulting clause seems to be just sitting there waiting for a major court case to decide what it truly means (even the lawyer who led drafting the clause admitted as such [1]).

[1] https://github.com/fossas/commons-clause/issues/4#issuecomme...

If it dies, there can be a point where the maintainer can re-license under more open terms, no? Until that point, the work and contributions are ensured to help sustain the creator.

I'm planning on releasing my project under similar terms. I'm not particularly interested in community contributions, but rather for there to be trust in ensuring privacy and security. Sometimes, there isn't a one-size-fits-all with the available OSI licenses and I appreciate what op has done to do his best to find what works well for him and the community.

It's less a community in that case than potential customers. Your creating a product, which is fine, but words like 'open source' and 'community' are quite misleading.

The words 'community' and 'customers' are not mutually exclusive and using the word community to refer to your customers is not misleading in the slightest...

Thank you for picking the license you did. Developers should be able to earn from their hard work, versus having a Goliath cloud provider take it and profit from it without contributing anything back. No need to cater to potential contributors who have no skin in the game, but turn their nose up at a license they don't believe in.

Can someone possibly summarize why this doesn't fit the strict definition of open source? What important rights are missing?

I'm one of the people who subscribes to the Open Source Initiative's definition[1] of the term "Open Source". On that basis, the "Commons Clause" applied to the license of this software discriminates against fields of endeavor. This makes it a "source available" license to me, and not an "Open Source" license.

[1] https://opensource.org/osd

You can't place prohibitions on selling the software or consulting services related to it. The definition of open source is here:


> I hereby grant anybody the right to do consulting/support without prior permission as long as it is less than 30.000 USD per year.

technical note: USD uses commas to denote thousands. So, in USD 30.000 == $30 which isn't worth the time spent to do the research to pick up the first phone call.

Social note: in many US cities $30k isn't enough to survive. In the US it's certainly not enough to live _well_. So, you're basically saying "Hey, I give you permission to make an important contribution to the success and community of this project as long as you're willing to take an absolutely CRAP salary for it."

that's.... not really cool.

I don't think it should matter how much a support person can make supporting your project. The only way a support person will be crazy successful financially is if your tool is ALSO crazy successful. It's a mutually beneficial situation. Don't limit them. Their success is your success.

Sorry for the confusion. The 30k was just some random amount to make it easy for most people. And did honestly not expect that a lot of people's income would come to 100% from n8n. Thought it would be one of multiple things they do and so 30k seemed like more than enough to cover the majority. Additionally did I not mean that they can ever make more. I simply wrote that up to that amount they do not even have to say anything. In the next sentence it additionally says: "If you have bigger things planned simply write an email to license@n8n.io."

This is very reasonable, and great that you provided those clear guidelines! Too bad the poster above didn't provide the full quote. Great project!

> Their success is your success

I guess so yes. At the same time, if someone installs and helps their customers with n8n, in addition to some other bigger more "main" things s/he does, then $30k can be fairly much?

If it's not the contractor's main thing but a smaller part of his/her offerings? ... O.t.o.h. maybe s/he never gets really good at n8n if s/he won't focus on it full time.

If you are running a consulting/support business and have your customer download the software then this clause is likely not even enforceable. You would not be distributing or running the software and therefore would not be subject to the terms of the license.

If you think of $30k as the cap of the "free tier" it seems more generous.

Nit: This is not open source - it is source available.(THANK-YOU for being upfront about the license though!)

Still, I might use this, and thanks for releasing

Yes you are correct. Wrote an extra section about it here in the docs: https://docs.n8n.io/#/faq?id=license

Great to hear!

I am not an IP lawyer, but I'm not sure that you can monetize this project either the way it's currently set up? Since you're accepting third-party pull requests without requiring a copyright assignment or more permissive license from the contributors, I believe that you'll only be allowed to use their contributions under the Apache-with-commons-clause license they submitted their work under.

Yeah, that seems like a glaring issue. What's the goal of the license? If not to encourage contributions and building other things on top of it, seems more like a "shared source" license. Might make more sense to make at least part of it fully open source, for everyone to contribute to freely (in both directions) and perhaps keep a smaller part (semi) proprietary.

I think it's disingenuous of you to call it "Open Source" and I think the distinction matters to more people than you think it does.

> Conversely, Richard Stallman argues the obvious meaning of term "open source" is that the source code is public/accessible for inspection, without necessarily any other rights granted, although the proponents of the term say the conditions in the Open Source Definition must be fulfilled.


I fall into the "...conditions in the Open Source Definition..." camp. I think many "source available" projects ride on the coattails of the goodwill associated with the term "Open Source".

You can fall to whatever side you wish, but calling someone disingenuous for siding otherwise does not show much of, indeed, goodwill, nor is it just.

The capitalization of "Open Source" makes it a proper noun or adjective which means it refers to a specific thing. This is why the Open Source Initiative (OSI) always uses "Open Source". You know they are referring to open source as defined by them. "open source" would be referring to the general concept which depending on interpretation could include shared source.

In my view using the proper vs common version of "open source" places this into a disingenuous attempt to be associated with open source as defined by the OSI.

In my view responding immediately with clear clarification of the degree of the code openness, right under the title of the website, places this into this as something which isn't remotely disingenuous. In my view seeing this as disingenuous is, quit frankly, odd.

It is also goes against the site comment's guideline (as well as general sane rule) of: Assume good faith.

Here's a concrete example of the connotation in action: I wouldn't have clicked thru to the comments or the project's site if the title of this posting was "Source-Available Alternative for Zapier".

I saw "Open Source" and assumed, as I suspect many people did, that it was talking about the Open Source Initiative definition of Open Source. Intended or not, those two words carry a connotation for a lot of people. I'd rather not see that connotation watered-down, either.

Then only click on links that say "Free Software". OSI redefined "Open Source" post-facto, and it has always been somewhat ambiguous. Free Software has always been unambiguously "Free as in Freedom Software".

I wouldn't pay much attention to such statement knowing the historical background. Stallman was and is a proponent of his own terminology, i.e. "free software", and the related definition which actually isn't that different (hence the catch-all "FLOSS").

Anyway, it's stupid to argue over this. The FAQ on the Commons Clause site itself, reflecting the intention and thinking of the drafter and the initiatiors, specifically states the license is "source-available", not "open source". When talking about open source as a form of licensing as opposed to e.g. software development culture/methodology, the distinction here is quite widely accepted and non-contentious.

Most companies will require legal approval anyway before you are allowed to use it.

For instance, at a previous company we were forbidden to use React until Facebook changed over to the MIT license. Facebook had a poison pill buried into their original "open source" license.

I think "open source (but not really, there's a small restriction)" sums it up better than "source available", so I can understand framing it that way.

OTOH, this is likely to never make it into distro repos anywhere. I also wonder if the author is driving to make a business out of it.

So I'd make three points:

1) It does affect distribution

2) It otherwise doesn't materially affect how I would use it

3) It seems a little like asking for contributions to a proprietary project.

Source Available is pretty sweet if you have a paid product you'd like to do detailed audits on. Especially in regulated environments (finance, medicine, etc).

Many enterprises prefer a paid service, as such contracts usually come with somebody assuming liability for data on the system and being around to resolve problems you'd otherwise need to distract an in-house team with.

I agree. My point is more of "source available" undersells the freedoms it does give you, while "open source" just barely over-represents them, so I can understand framing it as "basically open source".

Open source does not always mean free. No matter the project you still need to adhere to the license terms even if you have access to the source code.

> So to make it simpler do I hereby grant anybody the right to do consulting/support without prior permission as long as it is less than 30.000 USD per year.

That seems pretty fair - avoids the issues of freelance work being done with the project. I find it hard to care about big corporations not having access to monetize it but that begs the question - doesn't this reduce possible hosting solutions? Especially since there's no official hosting. Does this license imply that there can't be 3rd party commercial hosting?

Hmm, how does this license protect you?

https://commonsclause.com/ says that I can sell n8n.io as a commercial SaaS product. So I can create and sell a new Zapier using n8n?

Under Commons Clause you must bring something of "significant value" in addition to the original product. You can't just spin up a new instance.

I guess who/how defines what “significant value” is. For example: for some having it automatically spun up and maintained is significant to them.

If the only thing being offered is the product, but as part of an automated pipeline, from my reading of the license it could go either way, depending on the judge hearing the case.

That wouldn't be a very comfortable legal position.

It wouldn’t be very comfortable for either party, honestly. So I’d have to wonder if anybody small would ever try to enforce it.

Is this not a controversial topic? As far as I know there are two camps (as is alluded to further downthread) on whether Open Source is literal, or implies more about the license.

I favour the "open source = source available" definition, because that's how most people will understand it anyway. But regardless of where you stand on this, I think it's fair to say it's at least controversial.

I favor the "source available = source available" and "open source = open source (by the commonly understood open source definition)". It's much clearer that way, and wasn't really a muddy issue until certain big software companies started using "open source = source available"

For the sake of clarity you probably shouldn't define what you mean by 'open source' in terms of the 'commonly understood open source definition'.

Oh, that's true - I was sloppy. OSI definition is what I meant.

Having to define "open source" with that addendum illustrates the issue quite apropriately.

"Open Source ≠ open source" is the essence of the problem. The source is open, yet it isn't open source.

Here's an experiment you can run: hold an informal survey amongst a representative subset of programmers. "What does open source mean?". See what they say. I think I met one who knew what the OSI was.

Ironically, "free software" is a similarly terrible term. It should be called "freedom software". I once e-mailed Stallman to ask about it, and he replied they couldn't use that term because it was already trademarked. Welp...

The term "open source" was afaik invented by the people who would form the "open source consortium".

If you're not going by their definition, I think you're just wrong.

Open Source Initiative?

Commons Clause does not meet OSI's definition of "Open Source" nor the GNU/FSF definition of "Free Software" so it's fair to say it should not be called either.




Yes, I meant the OSI.

Yes, it doesn't fit either definition, so it shouldn't be called either.

The term 'free software' is hard to keep 'pure', because it has an obvious meaning for people who know nothing about software licensing.

But IMO, the terms 'libre software' and 'open source' should not be diluted. It doesn't serve any purpose to mis-use those terms, except confusing everyone.

Prescriptivism is a policy you can choose to follow, but I don't subscribe to it. I'm a descriptivist through and through. And from what I understand, I'm not the only one.

The very language I'm writing this to you in is probably the world's most exemplary instance of this principle in action.

Besides, isn't using things in other ways than they were originally intended the essence of The Hacker? ;)


We've taken 'open source' out of the title above, but it's pretty shocking to see you breaking the site guidelines like this. Worse, you've done it repeatedly before. I realize you're passionate on this topic and I appreciate your many positive contributions to HN over the years, but what are we supposed to tell people when we ban them for posting like this and they point to comments like these and say "Why is it ok when Sir_Cmpwn does it" and accuse us of favoritism?

Can you please just take the spirit of this site to heart and make your substantive points in a kind and thoughtful way from now on? It's not hard to do that if you want to. Yes it means giving up some emotional intensity and the relief of venting at something you dislike—but in return, the persuasive power of your comments will increase, and you won't be toxifying a community that you value enough to be part of.


Is HN's official position that the definition of the term "open source" is universally agreed upon as 100% matching the OSI definition? If so that's news to me. Maybe I really am out of touch.

It is almost universally accepted as correct. ESR coined the term, and agrees. Bruce Perens agrees. All of Debian agrees. Red Hat agrees. The Linux Journal agreed. LWN agrees. There is no room for ambiguity, as far as I can tell.

You do seem to be out of touch, on this issue at least.

EDIT: Put Linux Journal in past tense, as it no longer is running.

Certainly not. But when there's a way to take a flamewar off the table by finessing a title somehow, we do.

That's a bit of a relief. Thanks for the clarification.

I think it’s fine to debate licensing and have a good discussion what constitutes free and open source software.

BUT I’m really shocked by this and other abusive comments that you made here.

I’m using the software and even contributing to it. I’m aware of it’s license and ok with it.

I am also aware that others might have issues with the licensing and might not contribute. Everyone is free to decide - that’s fine!

However, insulting the author and accusing him of deception is just wrong.

The author wants to contribute something to the community and is by no means an expert on licensing. He has clearly explained his rationale / fear and was is very open to feedback.

With your expertise you could have provided constructive feedback and maybe helped to eventually move the project to a better license. You chose otherwise.

Every time it’s sad to see this kind of behavior eventually driving people away from building things and contributing to other projects.

It's no skin off my back when someone makes non-OSS/nonfree software. I won't use it, but that's a choice they can make. It doesn't bother me that you or anyone else would want to contribute to such a project, either.

What I won't stand for is lying about that software's status as open source. He may not be an expert on licensing but he's had it explained to him by experts and chooses to continue lying. That's not acceptable behavior.

>Every time it’s sad to see this kind of behavior eventually driving people away from building things and contributing to other projects.

It's even worse to see projects like this misleading contributors into giving to a project which isn't even open source in the first place and asks for more than it gives.

> What I won't stand for is lying about that software's status as open source. He may not be an expert on licensing but he's had it explained to him by experts and chooses to continue lying. That's not acceptable behavior.

How do you know this? What makes you assume that following the poll he won’t change the wording? Maybe even the license?

Why do you still accuse him of lying? Maybe it’s just an honest mistake?

In dubio pro reo, right?

> It's even worse to see projects like this misleading contributors into giving to a project which isn't even open source in the first place and asks for more than it gives.

I disagree. We need to be respectful in the way we interact with each other. Proper social intercourse is more important than the the topics we discuss.

I think everyone sees and respects how you feel about free / open source licensing.

Why can’t you just be a little bit more respectful towards the choices and opinions of others?

> It's even worse to see projects like this misleading contributors into giving to a project which isn't even open source in the first place and asks for more than it gives.

Sorry, can you elaborate? I invested probably around 1 year in writing n8n and I allow now everybody to use it for free (with the limitations discussed). I assume that over 90% of the people use it and I do not receive a single Pull-Request or Dollar (which is fine and I am totally OK with) and of the other 9% I guess they spend between a few hours to maybe a week in total in contributions (again also fine). Then there is probably less than 1% which does more than that. How am I asking for more than I give?

You're asking for more of contributors than you give back to them. You ask them for their work but then you and you alone reap all of the financial benfits.

Sorry still do not understand. So you are saying that I screw over a person which uses n8n (else he would probably not contribute anyway), for whom I assume n8n is in some way helpful (so makes his life easier, saves him time, the company makes more money, ...), who can use all the code I wrote for free? And just because he contributed some code and I do not allow other people (which is in 99.999%, not the contributor) to make money directly with n8n?

I didn't say you screwed them over. I said you take their patch and use it to create value that you deny to the contributor. I'm not weaseling words here.

Some contributors will be okay with that. But some won't be - and you're misleading them by telling them that it's open source when it's not. When something is called "open source", it's assumed to meet a certain criteria - the OSD - and can be used as a mental shortcut. When someone sees that your software is "open source", they'll probably believe you - but it's not. You're taking advantage of that.

Sorry english it not my native language. Thought that is kind of an OK short version of "asking for more of contributors than you give back to them". Did not want to weasel your words (hope I did at least use that correctly)!

I tried (apparently not successfuly) to write everywhere very clearly that the Commons Clause got applied and if somebody contributes to it he would normally have spend some time with the project and he should be aware of the license situation. Would never have expected that somebody would find out later that it is not the case and he would then be upset about it. But thanks, not sure that it would happen but still one more thing for me to consider (as you are right that it could happen).

Counterpoint: I've been employed to work on liberally licensed software for many years. In my experience, the idea of "open source" exists on a spectrum.

Open source is important to different people for different reasons. For some it's about code quality or security. For others it's an escape hatch from vendor lock-in. For others it's a moral issue. To each their own, but I think the term is heavily overloaded. That genie is simply out of the bottle, for better or worse.

I think the author goes through great lengths to clarify their position. They use "open source" to communicate something that is accurate for the vast majority of people who would be interested in this software, which I would guess is mostly people interested in avoiding vendor lock-in. For those who have a reason to be concerned about the details, it's made very obvious what the restrictions are.

Also, you're assuming a ton about the author's intent here.

EDIT: Also, I think the term "source available" in this context would cause far more people confusion/lead them to a false idea of how this project is licensed than saying "open source" does.

Academia is notorious for being bad on software licensing, and is not a model to emulate. "Liberally licensed" is a false flag.

I have been using and contributing and publishing open source software (and source available software) since 2004. The first time I heard of the OSI and OSD was in 2017. For years I thought open source simply meant the source code was public.

I would not be surprised if > 50% of the global developer population is unaware of the OSI or OSD. The fact that most public GitHub projects have no license certainly should have us questioning levels of awareness.

I do agree this project should change the language on the homepage, especially as they receive feedback in this thread. However, I think we should give people the benefit of the doubt before we assume they are acting in bad faith.

Honestly did not expect that people care THAT much about that. I simply fear that it confuses way more people than it helps. I myself have no idea at all what the term "source-available" really means and I assume that is the case for the most people.

But also think debatting right now further about it would not really help. Will think about it at least a night (maybe more) to make a decision. Advice also the other side to do the same to see and understand my side. If the decision is that I change it. Everything is solved anyway. If my decision is to keep it we can proceed here:


Honestly, I expected some issues because of calling it "Open Source" (even though I did not expect this level, it sounds like I am the antichrist). I extra mention everywhere that the Commons Clause is attached, wrote a special section in the docs about it and even put Open Source additionally in quotes. I am sorry that it upsets you but I wrote, why I did it, in the docs and I think that are viable points. I can also understand your point. If I would write Open Source and people would not allow to use it for free I would even agree but for now, I stand by my decision.

I am however open. I created that poll: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21195516

The people can vote what they think. If a reasonable amount of people participates (let's say 100) and they say I should stop I will change all the texts.

> I extra mention everywhere that the Commons Clause is attached, wrote a special section in the docs about it and even put Open Source additionally in quotes

Screenshots of the home page:



No quotes here. You're apropriating the language of open source ("free and open source" is also a key phrase people will recognize and make assumptions from) to describe software you know isn't. In order to know that this page is bullshit, you have to come here already knowing that "Apache 2.0 with Commons Clause" is not open source. The (awful) license apropriates the "Apache 2.0" name, which is a respected and well known open source license, and aporopriates the language of "Creative Commons", likewise respected and well-known to mean something entirely different from this. Someone who isn't informed about this problem could easily mistake this project for open source. You're deliberately taking advantage of this to gaslight the open source software community.

Your software is source-available. Call it that. If you're ashamed to do so then maybe you've chosen a shitty license. You know that you're lying about "open source". You've admitted as much yourself.

The authors of the Commons Clause themselves acknoweldge that it's not open source.

> I created that poll: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21195516

The issue I filed here also includes 11 votes against at the time of writing:


Setting an arbitrarily high bar of 100 votes for a poll which will never leave /new is just more gaslighting. What's your problem, man?

I'd be careful about reading too much into the results of that poll, or the number of upvotes on the github issue. The people who disagree with you are far more incentivized to vote than those who agree as well as those who are neutral.

Thanks a lot! Yes agree but the fact that they care very much and the other group way less is a sign that I should change it if I can resolve the situation like that. Why not make them "happy" If I have the chance?

The only reason I am hesitating is that I fear to confuse more people than I help. If people (including myself) would know what (actually had to look up the term again) "source-available" means I would have used it from the start. But nobody does. So the question is, is it worth confusing a big group of none-vocal-people to make a small group of vocal-people happy? But I can understand definitely understand their point. So have to decide on that the next days.

Jump off your high horse @Sir_Cmpwn - your definition of open source did not come from the heavens. If the majority of people are happy to accept that n8n is open source, thats the end of it. Accusing him of lying is a bit aggressive.

My definition of open source is the definition of open source. This is a fact. If you are gaslighting people to believe otherwise you are an enemy of the open source community.

Do you really believe that the only definition of "open source" that any honest person is referring to when they use the term is the exact definition that you subscribe to?

Yes. The definition is clearly stated. I don't believe that someone can't be mistaken or ignorant, and I don't blame them for this - but once corrected, their tune needs to change. Less than that constitutes an attack on open source, because it's deliberately dilluting the term to broaden it to include software which is clearly not.

Clearly stated by one organization. Everyone is free to agree or disagree with that organization's position, whether fully or partially. There's a reason they have a logo, and I don't see the author of n8n using that logo anywhere on their site.

In my experience, common usage of the term "open source" is far more lax than you're making it out to be. A compelling argument could be made that you're the one gaslighting here.

Clearly stated by one organization whose definition has been universally endorsed. You can't put up a lemonade stand, sell people jars of piss, and then claim that you thought piss was a kind of lemonade. You certainly can't keep doing it after you've been told. You can't choose what language means because it's convenient to you. The definition of open source is universally agreed upon and non-controverial, except for people who want to sow dissent in open source for selfish, profit-driven motivations.

Replying here because I think it got too deeply nested.

I disagree with the definition, or at least the strict application of it. Therefore it is not "universal".

And I question why you disagree with that definition. Can you explain?

Based purely on experience. People use the term to mean different things. That's why the first thing I do when I see a new "open source" project is check the license to clarify "what kind" of open source it is. But I wouldn't assume bad faith unless the license was clearly limited in some way that would affect a high percentage of people who are typically interested in open source projects. I see the value in having a single agreed-upon definition, I just don't think that's realistic without coining a new phrase (similar to how "libre" and "FLOSS" are used for viral licenses). Are you aware of any research showing the adoption of this definition is essentially universal? I'm genuinely curious about that. I'm fully willing to consider that my experience may be an outlier.

EDIT: Also want to point out that in my personal projects that I've made the source available I have exclusively used licenses that are compatible with your definition. But I'm currently working on a project that I intend to monetize, and I'm trying to figure out how to make it as open as possible without risking my ability to make money. Due to responses like yours that I've seen, I'm considering just keeping it closed. I think proprietary software gets less complaints than "source available" software, which is hilarious to me.

What you described doesn't seem to be related to looking for "what kind of open source" it is, but what kind of software it is in general. Just because it's on Github has no bearing on what kind of software it is. Take this, for example:


On Github - yes

Free/open source - no

Source available - no

Being ignorant of the taxonomy of the software landscape doesn't change that taxonomy. Open source is a meaningful term which has been used for a long time to refer to a specific set of criteria. It was established in the first place as an alternative criteria than "free software", which also has a well understood definition.

I don't have any scholarly research on the subject to put forward, but I can tell you that ignorance of the meaning of "open source" always comes from without. The community building open source software understands what it means, and it's only at the fringes - like HN, where open source hackers mingle freely with capitalists deseparately seeking an angle to turn into profit - where the issue muddies.

> Just because it's on Github has no bearing on what kind of software it is

Straw man.

> I don't have any scholarly research on the subject to put forward, but I can tell you that ignorance of the meaning of "open source" always comes from without. The community building open source software understands what it means.

So everyone who disagrees with you is ignorant? That seems a bit strong. I also find your us-vs-them framing concerning.

> capitalists deseparately seeking an angle to turn into profit

I think that the predatory capitalists are more helped by you making this a black and white issue and shaming people into adopting certain types of licenses that leave them open to large corporations glutting themselves off of liberally licensed projects (a la Mongo/Redis). Giving more power to boostrapped small businesses seems like a good idea to me, even if it means having a more liberal definition of "open source".

Anyhow, I think we're beyond the point of constructive debate here. I'll end by saying that I have mad respect for you. I love what you're doing with sourcehut (especially the minimalist design!), and wish you tons of success with that. I also love that you embrace decentralized projects like Mastodon. And I'm not so naive as to think these things are disconnected from your views on open source licensing. I respect those views. I don't even necessarily disagree with your positions, mostly with your approach to disseminating them.

I agree that this isn't likely to go anywhere more productive than it already has. However:

>by you [...] shaming people into adopting certain types of licenses that leave them open to large corporations glutting themselves off of liberally licensed projects

That's not what I've done here. I'm not shaming anyone for using this license. I'm shaming them for using this license and calling it open source. It's not.

Just registering my disagreement with this position. I think the author is right, most people are going to look at the difference between this license and true FOSS and say "whatever".

You cannot disagree about facts. "Open source" is well defined, the author knows about it, and they're lying about their software's qualifications for it to deliberately mislead users and make themselves more money.

1. As was already posted: stop with the hurtful language and accusations toward the author. It’s just sad and disrespectful.

2. It’s not a fact, it’s a definition, as you’re stating it yourself. The thing with definitions and laws is that they can be changed if a majority agrees to do so.

Not sure if it’s the case here. You are probably right with the definition, but stop acting like you have the ultimate truth.


Please stop.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21196136 and marked it off-topic.

My experience is that that genie is already out of the bottle. IMO this project falls under the "open source" umbrella. I know that could mean a number of things. The term is overloaded. Therefore I always check the license in these situations, and this author has gone to great lengths to clarify their position.

Assuming someone's intent based on their personal interpretation is wrong.

I don't think the term "open source" shouldn't be controlled by one org (OSI). My personal understanding of open source is fine with the license having "cannot be used as a offering/product by AWS/GCP/Azure" line.

Wow, this is a lot of work. Thanks a lot for open-sourcing it!

Only, it is not open sourced: https://docs.n8n.io/#/faq?id=is-n8n-really-open-source

Deceptive tactics.

Yes it was and still a lot left ;-) But it was worth it as it helps me now every day and will hopefully from now on do the same for other people as well!

At the risk of sounding flippant: the pipe operator.

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