Linked by Michael L. Love on Mon 3rd Nov 2003 19:19 UTC
BSD and Darwin derivatives The GNU-Darwin Distribution is a free operating system and a popular source of free software for Mac OS X and Darwin-x86 users, but it is also a platform for digital activism. Founded in November of 2000, the Distribution has the stated goal of bringing software freedom to computer users of every stripe, and vigilantly defending digital liberties.
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Re: Great Cthulhu (IP: 209.47.215.---)
by drsmithy on Wed 5th Nov 2003 03:58 UTC

Look at it this way: what other free OS has achieved Linux's notoriety? None.

Saying the GPL is the reason for that is a *HHHHUUUUGGGGGE* extrapolation.

Now, if the BSDL is so superior to the GPL (and therefore RMS's contribution is negligible), then why is it that the BSDs aren't more popular than Linux? It can't just be the mascot...

I have made no comments as to which license is "superior". Each has its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages. I was merely using the BSDs as an example of "free software" that has - up until very recently - enjoyed similar levels of "notoriety" as Linux, despite having a very different philosophy behind it.

I also made no comment about RMS's contributions.

Whether or not the BSDL is superior depends on your perspective. If writing Free Software is your goal, the BSDL is clearly superior. If requiring everyone who uses your code to agree to your communist viewpoint is your goal, the GPL is superior ;) . If striking a fair balance is your goal then the LGPL (or equivalent) is probably the best option.

The BSDs' current positions can be explained by a number of factors unrelated to the GPL (as can Linux's). The main ones are probably that the BSDs were under some legal pressure about the time Linux first originated and they've also always been somewhat more restrictive about how easily people can contribute.

Linux is mostly a case of "good enough and lucky to be in the right place at the right time" - much like MSDOS was.

We can talk about what could have been, or what has actually happened.

Well, having a hypothetical discussion about what actually happened is pretty moot ;) .

You are talking about Linux specifically. I'm talking about the general principle of a "free" operating system making significant inroads against proprietry commercial OSes. IMHO, the latter is a more interesting discussion, because the former is already over and done with.

I believe that the GPL is part of the reason of Linux's success. You have not presented any arguments that could lead me to think otherwise.

I don't believe the GPL itself was a major contributor to Linux's success. There are undoubtedly some pieces of GPLed software that helped *a lot* (GCC being the most prominent example), but your assertion assumes that the GPL was primarily responsible for that software, more so than the people who wrote it. Based on the presence other "free software" movements I don't see any reason to believe similar bits of software wouldn't have appeared *without* the GPL.

Do I think the GPL played a part ? Yes - indirectly - so did a lot of things.
Do I think there would be some sort of "free software" currently enjoying the popularity Linux has if the GPL didn't exist ? Yes.

And I haven't seen any arguments that convince me otherwise ;) .

You are basically trying to say that if Linus has released his kernel under the BSDL, or even the LGPL (or equivalent), then Linux would not be in the position it is today. Personally, I think that's a completely untenable position to take, because it requires an intimate understanding of the motivations of the thousands of people who have contributed to Linux over the years.

Indeed, one could make a fairly powerful argument that had Linux been released under a less restrictive license than the GPL it would be even more popular, as it would have been more suited to inclusion/merging with commercial products.