Google knows what’s out there. That knowledge is what they give away in order to collect revenue on ads. Part of their knowledge is the state of FLOSS and they shared that at a conference:
“DiBona said that according to Google’s net crawlers, the web now contains over 31 million open source projects, spanning 2 billion lines of code. Forty-eight per cent of these projects are under the GPL, 23 per cent use the LGPL, 14 per cent use the BSD license, 6 per cent use Apache, and 5 per cent use the MIT license. All other licenses are used with under 5 per cent of the projects. Google’s preferred license, DiBona reiterated, is Apache, because “it has patent grants that are fair.” Unlike the GPL, Apache has no copyleft requirement, meaning those who use Apache code needn’t distribute their changes back to the community.”
That revelation says a lot. FLOSS is doing better than even I had guessed. Still, I find it puzzling that people want a licence that respects patents because software patents are essentially invalid, software being a logical product that can be produced by anyone given the specification of what needs to be done. That is, if you need “Hello World!” on the screen there are countless ways of doing that and none of them are creative. They are defined by the permutations of the syntactical elements of programming languages and instruction sets. A programmer just chooses a permutation from a finite set. It’s not like literature where the objective is open-ended. The story/plot does not even need to end in a creative work. Similarly having open source and not distributing changes is bizarre.
From the Apache Licence:
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It seems to me contradictory for a licence to grant the right to distribute in object form and to modify the code. It is so much easier to work in source code and so much more valuable. If a programmer gets a programme in source form under the licence, he/she can change the code, compile it and distribute the binary under the same licence but the recipient of that code now has a difficult time to modify the code. What is the purpose of that? I don’t think it helps anyone. It certainly gives the end-user far fewer rights than the original authour intended for the original authour’s original work. That seems to me to be a pointless thing but there it is, Google prefers that…
I am thankful that many in the FLOSS community do not agree with the ASL and Google. FLOSS is doing very well in spite of diversity or because of it and I think Google’s strange view of FLOSS will not become the norm but remain an eccentricity.