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

> pedantry around the definition of Open Source, which I understand ... it's close enough if you squint

Then I think that while you might have read and understood the definition, you seem to have missed the broader idea behind it.

> pay to play seems more than fair

That's irrelevant. Sure it's fair, but it's fundamentally _not open source_.

It's not about gospel or having power over you. It's about communication and well established meanings. Calling a fish a bird doesn't make it a bird, and resisting attempts by others to redefine the language I use is a Good Thing as far as I'm concerned.

(To their credit, Timescale uses the terminology correctly and I greatly appreciate that. I also think they picked the right licensing model given how things seem to work these days.)






> you seem to have missed the broader idea behind it.

Funny, I feel that you might have missed the point as well.

> It's about communication and well established meanings.

Yes, but it's fundamentally impossible to bucket various licenses into what they do and do not do, and what obligations or burdens they place upon the end user. What is Open Source? The OSI includes GPLv3, which is certainly not "free" for a ton of commercial uses.

Let's peek at the OSI's FAQ:

> This history has led to occasional confusion about the relationship between the two terms. Sometimes people mistakenly assume that users of the term "open source" do not intend to communicate a philosophical point of view via that term, even though many actually do use it that way. Another mistake, which has occasionally been seen since about 2008, is to assume that "free software" refers only to software licensed under copyleft licenses, since that is how the FSF typically releases software, while "open source" refers to software released under so-called permissive (i.e., non-copyleft) licenses. In fact, both terms refer to software released under both kinds of license.

> Neither term binds exclusively to one set of associations or another, however; it is always question of context and intended audience. When you sense a potential misunderstanding, you may wish to reassure your audience that the terms are essentially interchangeable, except when being used specifically to discuss the history or connotations of the terminological difference itself. Some people also prefer to use the term "free and open source software" (or FOSS, FLOSS [free, libre and open source software]) for this reason.

Okay so, let's recap: A) it's confusing. B) the terms are often interchangeable but context matters. C) not everyone agrees.

At this point, the value of any "Open Source Definition" is severely diluted for any considerable purpose. Just because a license meets OSI's definition doesn't mean I should make any assumptions about what I can or cannot do with it, so what value does this provide beyond adding confusion?

> Can I call my program "Open Source" even if I don't use an approved license? > Please don't do that. If you call it "Open Source" without using an approved license, you will confuse people. This is not merely a theoretical concern — we have seen this confusion happen in the past, and it's part of the reason we have a formal license approval process. See also our page on license proliferation for why this is a problem.

I'd argue the confusion is already present. A license is a license is a license. OSI is an organization that says "please don't call your thing Open Source if it doesn't meet our standards" -- I don't care. Whether or not I comply with this polite request changes nothing, offers me no direct benefits.

To be clear: I see value in OSI, and everything they provide. They have definitely provided a net benefit to the world. I do not see value in pedantry around the term "open source", those words are so plain and ordinary that gluing any tertiary meaning to them is foolish. It's as subjective as "good code".


You are either severely misunderstanding or misrepresenting the FAQ that you quoted. It's simply clarifying that copy-left and permissive licenses are both compatible with the meaning of the term open source (ie they're disjoint subsets).

Regarding the "please only used approved licenses bit" - you've again missed the point. There is an effectively infinite set of possible licenses which satisfy the meaning of the term "open source" as it is currently used. The OSI is merely pointing out that it will make everyone's lives easier if developers try their best to use one of the licenses that already exists.

Licensing is a complex topic and not everyone is a lawyer or can afford to consult one (particularly for hobby and volunteer projects). If every project out there used a unique license it would be a complete nightmare. For that reason, it's better for everyone if at least some minimal attempt is made to use a well established license whenever possible.

> The OSI includes GPLv3, which is certainly not "free" for a ton of commercial uses.

Incorrect. Commercial customers are free to use, modify, and redistribute just like everyone else. They can even sell a product based on it - they just can't keep any changes they might make closed source if they do so.

> the value of any "Open Source Definition" is severely diluted for any considerable purpose

Not at all. The meaning is quite clear - I'm either free to use, modify, and redistribute it or I'm not. That's it.

Take a look at some of the approved licenses - for example AGPL, GPL, MPL, and MIT. In _all_ cases I'm free to modify and redistribute. In some cases I might be required to make my changes available, but never am I barred from making use as I see fit. Source available is simply not the same thing.

> I do not see value in pedantry around the term "open source", those words are so plain and ordinary that gluing any tertiary meaning to them is foolish. It's as subjective as "good code".

The fact that you see it as subjective is the misunderstanding that I refer to. It is _not_ subjective, but convincing others that it is can sometimes confer monetary benefits. This is precisely why such pedantry exists in great quantity surrounding the topic.


I don't really want to debate with you here, and if anything I feel like the points you are hammering on just fortify my stance that this topic is a waste of breath.

> The OSI is merely pointing out that it will make everyone's lives easier if developers try their best to use one of the licenses that already exists

Maybe, maybe not! Perhaps existing licenses are not sufficient. I doubt we'll be using the same licenses in 100 years. I bet there are better licenses waiting to be authored -- maybe TFA's license is the future?

> > The OSI includes GPLv3, which is certainly not "free" for a ton of commercial uses. > > Incorrect. Commercial customers are free to use, modify, and redistribute just like everyone else. They can even sell a product based on it - they just can't keep any changes they might make closed source if they do so.

Look, I live in the real world. If I link to a GPLv3 library in my product, I have to release all of my source code. This is potentially a pretty big burden on a lot of folks. Sure, there's a lot of legal FUD, but unfortunately, while FUD, has a very real impact. Lawyers won't sign off on a lot of this stuff.

> Take a look at some of the approved licenses - for example AGPL, GPL, MPL, and MIT. In _all_ cases I'm free to modify and redistribute. In some cases I might be required to make my changes available, but never am I barred from making use as I see fit. Source available is simply not the same thing.

AGPL is defacto banned at most companies, such as Google, which has this to say[0]:

> The license places restrictions on software used over a network which are extremely difficult for Google to comply with. Using AGPL software requires that anything it links to must also be licensed under the AGPL. Even if you think you aren’t linking to anything important, it still presents a huge risk to Google because of how integrated much of our code is. The risks heavily outweigh the benefits.

Gee, that sure sounds "open" to me.

Grouping AGPL and MIT in the same bucket is borderline harmful -- they're wildly different! This is what I mean when I say the term "open source" is a fuzzy descriptor. You can't have a fuzzy descriptor and then complain about things which don't fit your worldview. That's what the OSI basically does in a nutshell with their "Open Source Definition".

> It is _not_ subjective, but convincing others that it is can sometimes confer monetary benefits. This is precisely why such pedantry exists in great quantity surrounding the topic.

I agree we shouldn't accept anyone abusing the term for profit. At the same time, I don't think it's appropriate to conflate themes of "encumbered" or "burdensome" or "infectious" with the word "open" -- that is just as misleading and confers a different set of benefits that are not universally appreciated.

And one final thing: Just because I disagree with OSI's terminology doesn't make me incorrect. Statements like that come off as abrasive and trend towards a hostile, gatekeeping tone. The term you're looking for is "I disagree". It's easy to interpret your worldview as very small. If I polled a group of random software developers about what open source meant to them, I would be surprised if any of them referenced the OSI definition. Most developers would, sadly, conclude "stuff on github".

[0]: https://opensource.google/docs/using/agpl-policy/


You say you don't want to debate here, but from my perspective you're actively spreading misinformation and FUD.

I agree that there might be better possible licenses out there - you might notice that I described the set of possible open source licenses as being infinitely large! The point is that you should go with an existing license for the good of the community unless you run into a limitation for your particular usecase that isn't adequately addressed.

Note that this has happened before! It's how the MPL (non-viral) and AGPL (anti proprietary SaaS) came about for example.

The one thing they all have in common is that they protect the user's right to modify and redistribute the software they receive. Yes, that necessarily places some limits on things in order to disallow abridging such rights for downstream users.

Moreover, there is indeed a balance between the degree to which such rights are preserved versus the number of restrictions the license must impose in order to accomplish its purpose. This is why a range from copyleft to permissive exists, with the MPL squarely in the middle. The presence of such nuance doesn't make the definition fuzzy or unclear though - there is a consistent protection of user freedom throughout, with restrictions existing only to further this goal. (Compare this to source available licenses, which carry additional restrictions unrelated to preserving user freedom.)

> Grouping AGPL and MIT in the same bucket is borderline harmful -- they're wildly different! This is what I mean when I say the term "open source" is a fuzzy descriptor. You can't have a fuzzy descriptor and then complain about things which don't fit your worldview. That's what the OSI basically does in a nutshell with their "Open Source Definition".

Again, this is a factually incorrect statement. You are verifiably and demonstrably wrong here. The definition of open source is consistent, and all of those licenses fit it. Source available licenses, on the other hand, do not.

You mention a bunch of objections you (and others) have to AGPL, GPL, etc. That's fine, and those licenses may not be right for you, but that doesn't somehow make them "not open source". Trying to shoehorn in some other definition by claiming that having issues for you or someone else makes them "not open" isn't a valid line of argument. The meaning of the term is very well established at this point and you are misusing it.

I realize you have (apparently) an ideological axe to grind against viral licenses. I don't particularly like them either, but that doesn't magically change the definition of an established term.

> The term you're looking for is "I disagree".

No, I used precisely the term I was looking for when I said that you were incorrect. It is true that I disagree with all of your following statements as a result though! You might legitimately hold that the term "open source" has a different definition than the one I use, but (as you might have gathered from what I wrote) I'm not even remotely convinced. In fact I made it clear that I hold such views to be ignorant, and that I believe you have fundamentally misunderstood the entire point of the open source movement. I can see how such a view might come off as abrasive, but that doesn't change it.




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

Search: