There’s a storm brewing in the world of Qt and KDE, as the parent company of Qt, The Qt Company, is contemplating restricting new Qt releases to paying customers (i.e., not releasing them as open source) for twelve months. This obviously affects the KDE project considerably, who have been negotiating with The Qt Company for years now.
An announcement made by The Qt Company in January derailed said negotiations, however. As KDE’s Olaf Schmidt-Wischhöfer explains:
They announced that LTS releases of Qt will only be available for paid license holders. It is still unclear what this implies for contributions to Qt and for the sharing of security fixes between the various parties (including The Qt Company, the many Qt experts contributing, the KDE community, and Linux distributions).
It seemed the two parties were working on a path forward acceptable to all parties involved, but then came the announcement earlier today that The Qt Company was contemplating restricting all releases to paid customers for twelve months. It seems bad blood has been brewing for a while, as Schmidt-Wischhöfer states:
The Qt Company says that they are willing to reconsider the approach only if we offer them concessions in other areas. I am reminded, however, of the situation half a year ago. We had discussed an approach for contract updates, which they suddenly threw away by restricting LTS releases of Qt instead.
All software changes in Qt will still be available at as Open Source as required by our contract – maybe with a delay of 12 months if the company decides to part ways with the communities. We will continue to work on a contract update that helps all sides. But even if these negotiations were to be unilaterally stopped by The Qt Company, Qt will stay Open Source, and KDE will be able to use it. I am also absolutely sure that the Qt + KDE communities will continue cooperation on new features, bug fixes, and security fixes, even should The Qt Company decide to forgo the benefits of cooperation.
Luckily for the future of KDE and Qt, there is an agreement in place between KDE and The Qt Company that states that “[…] should The Qt Company discontinue the development of the Qt Free Edition under the required licenses, then the Foundation has the right to release Qt under a BSD-style license or under other open source licenses.”
This is a serious issue that I hope can be resolved, as nobody will benefit from a serious rift between The Qt Company and the KDE project.
We’re going to be in for another fork, with 2 competing projects fighting for supremacy. Remember the rift between Openoffice and Oracle, which cause OpenOffice to branch into LibreOffice? I’m confident the same will happen here with Qt, with a community lead fork and a corporate “paid for ” fork running in tandem.
No one will win. Well, maybe in the long run, the community will win. But in the short term it will a messy disaster that will put Qt, and KDE, back a few steps.
Sad! KDE has been the DE the best potential. Mate and Xfce have a slow development and are increasingly viewed as “legacy software”, Gnome is unusable, Cinnamon just an improved Gnome, window managers alone are not enough for “normal people”.