The GPL Doesn't Impede Linux

Over at ZDNet Paul Murphy has a rather annoying post about whether the GPL impedes Linux more than it helps. The short answer is: No. The slightly longer version is “who cares?”

Linux has become an incredible phenomenon, it’s used in some of the biggest companies on the planet (Google, Oracle, Novell), it runs large chunks of the net and has an amazing community of very smart people moving it forward. The GPL is what’s allowed us to get here. Big commercial companies like HP and IBM don’t give their source code to competitors. With the GPL they can help improve a common system and still ensure that it can’t be abused and locked in to another proprietary product.

Now to the points about the adoption slowing. There was a very good book published called “Crossing the Chasm”. It explains the four phases of technical adoption, starting with visionaries and moving on to laggards. I think we’re seeing a slow down as the more cautious companies allow other people to be their testers. All the easily swayed people, whether it be the very smart, dynamic or Microsoft hating crowds, have already moved over and in a lot of cases are saving bundles from it. The other companies will move as time goes by. Hell, look at the number of people still using Windows 95 if you want to see laggards in action!

As I get older I get ever more cranky when people start whining about the GPL. If you don’t like it don’t use it. If you do use it then play by the damn rules. It’s pretty simple. A side effect of this is I have an ever greater respect for RMS and the work he’s done to get us here. He might be an uncompromising bastard who pisses people off but he’s determined, full of integrity and is someone who gives us what we need, not always what we want. And then we have the Free software song…