“Everyone who bitches about the GPL … I’d like them to remove all the GPL software from their computers, and see how they get on.”Now, this is all apart of some brouhaha over Wordpress and it’s templates or something. I personally don’t care about any of that (I’ve long moved past Wordpress, as I find them to be bad open source citizens), but it did get me to thinking, as a person who does think the BSD license is a better open source license than the GPL, just how much of an inconveneince would this be? I certainly do rely on a bunch of gnu software that I’d just as soon not live without, like my playstation, or our dvr, and probably our router too. However I don’t really have a choice in these things, and to be fair I don’t think there is anything perticularly special about linux that makes it better for a dvr than you could do with BSD. But let’s consider things where I do have a choice, where most software developers have a choice, which is in the tools we work with and things we work on. This is pretty broad, so let’s just consider the classic LAMP stack that most people work on. Apache is of course, available under the Apache license, so it’s already in the clear. While I like Linux, I’ve long replaced it in my life with a mix of OSX, *Solaris, and *BSD, for computers where I get to choose the OS. Yes, our eeepc does run Linux, but I could probably switch that to some BSD system if needed. Likewise MySQL has always had the backseat next to Postgres or Oracle, and even the NoSQL fanboys have plenty of non-gpl options (Couch, Hadoop, Cassandra, Voldemort, etc…) to pick from. And finally, whether your P is Perl, PHP, or Python, all of those languages are available under non-GPL licenses. So, I guess the “LAMP” stack could go on. Surely there must be some things though right? I started to think about other tools I work with regularly, like X and vim, and while I’m sure there are some tools that might be gpl, certainly many are not, and I’d guess between Solaris and BSD, I could make a GPL-free stack that I’d be comfortable working on, with software that is already available. This isn’t to say I wouldn’t miss anything. I love my recursive grep, find the -P argument for xargs amazing, and find BSD tar just crippling to work with. None of those would be as bad as losing screen, which is a must have for any serious server work. Of course there are alternatives for all of these (not that I know anyone who uses tmux), and I’d bet some of these features could be easily re-implemented in a BSD version if needed. I think where this really get’s you is in the software that has been built upon these base tools, perticularly in the area of PHP software development. A lot of people over that last 10 years have produced GPL lciense software, like Drupal, PHP-Nuke, phpBB, phpMyAdmin, and more. I think most people didn’t really think about there license choices back then (perhaps not now either); “if it’s good enough for Linus”. It’s too bad, I know I’d much rather license phpPgAdmin under the BSD than GPL, but I think we’re pretty much stuck at this point. I have noticed some newer projects (Habari for instance) have chosen non-GPL licenses; I don’t know if that is a trend or anything, but it wouldn’t hurt if it was.
This morning I was browsing some twitter, when I came across this tweet: