Linked by Eugenia Loli on Thu 31st Aug 2006 01:29 UTC, submitted by sequethin
NetBSD Charles Hannum, co-founder of NetBSD posted to 3 major BSD lists saying that "The NetBSD Project has stagnated to the point of irrelevance. It has gotten to the point that being associated with the project is often more of a liability than an asset. I will attempt to explain how this happened, what the current state of affairs is, and what needs to be done to attempt to fix the situation."
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Well, some people point to the legal issues with AT&T. And maybe that factors in. It was before my time. I was still supporting SCO Unix back then. (Or was it OpenServer by that time?)

I, personally, think that the GPL has a lot to do with the media exposure that Linux enjoys. Think about "The BSD Story":

"BSD is a great OS, based on UNIX, that you can get for free."

Falls a bit flat doesn't it? Oh, you might squeeze a story out of this on a slow news day, but it just lacks something.

Now try this:

"Linus Torvalds, a computer science student, all by himself, wrote an operating system. But then Linus had an idea: Why not take the source code, the magic recipe for computer programs, and give it away for free so that others could improve it. But with a catch! If you change the recipe, you have to give those changes back. Most companies keep the recipe for their computer programs a secret..."

I think that most of us here at OSNews can fill in the rest of the story of how Linus Tovalds invented a new way of writing computer programs. It's not like we haven't all read about a hundred of these articles. ( And yes, I know how hideously wrong the above paragraph is. :-P )

The point is that this is "newsworthy" (and reusable) in a way that "The BSD Story" simply is not.

This is *not* intended as a slight against BSD. Just an observation of the fact that Linux has more of a human interest angle.

The other way in which I think that GPL has helped Linux's popularity is that it attracts companies who seriously want to contribute. Companies that would like to simply leech off of it find that using the code entails certain responsibilities, which might put them off, but who cares? Companies that really want to contribute has the assurance that their competitors are not going to just take their work and use it against them without giving back.

One needs only look to Theo's recent carping about companies not giving back to OpenSSH to see that this *is* an issue.

To be sure, GPL also has its down sides. Which are becoming ever more apparent. Ceaseless wasted effort arguing about licenses instead of getting real work done. Unintended incompatibilities with other software also under perfectly good OSI/FSF approved licenses. People trying to do their part to help out, only to find that they get shot down because they have run afoul of some subsection of a license that I used to think was simple, but now can't help but see as a legal minefield. (The GPLv2 vs GPLv3 draft arguments I have followed recently have been a real eye opener to me... after 10 years of having *thought* that I understood GPL.)

So there it is. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

On the balance, though, and back to the original point, I do believe that, for better or worse, the GPL has contributed to Linux's popularity relative to the BSDs.

Edited 2006-08-31 16:39

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